Theresa Bernstein, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother

c. 1916
Oil on board
Credit Line
Museum purchase, 2018
26 x 16 in.

This painting is thought to be a portrait of the artist’s mother. Elegantly dressed for an outing, and with her back to the viewer, the sitter turns to the right as if something has attracted her attention. The informality of the gesture and the pose are hallmarks of a certain type of French Impressionism that captures what appear to be unposed moments of modern life. The format of a single figure against a seemingly unfinished, painterly background that suggests an exterior environment was pioneered by the French Impressionists. Art critics often described Bernstein’s painting style as “masculine.” While slighting her “femininity,” this commentary rightly called attention to Bernstein’s urban subjects and confident brushwork, which is beautifully illustrated here.

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Theresa Bernstein