Theresa Bernstein, Study for "The Readers"
“The New York Public Library was my Alma Mater,” Bernstein declared in the preface to her autobiography, The Journal.
Bernstein was brought up in a household that cultivated a love of reading. She would often visit the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, where she made sketches for The Readers. This is an intimate depiction of people deeply absorbed in their reading.
The Readers demonstrates Bernstein’s commitment to recording scenes of everyday life in the modern city. In this, she embraced the exhortation of the artist Robert Henri, her friend and colleague, to paint contemporary subjects. Henri reasoned that, in doing so, an artist’s work would inevitably be a relevant marker of a meaningful moment since the world would constantly change.