Barridoff Galleries is please to announce our upcoming
Fall Estate & Discovery Sale on October 19, 2019
The Rosalyne and Sumner Bernstein Collection
Written by: Beth B. Schneider and Andy Bernstein
We have very little memory of a time before our parents, Rosalyne and Sumner Bernstein, began to collect art. In August of 1956, the family moved into our home at 112 Craigie Street, a house with empty walls in the living and dining rooms. When law school friends Ralph and Renee Neibart visited, Renee, an artist, took one look at the new house and said, “You need to hang art on these walls.” After returning home to New Jersey, Renee sent our parents a painting and a bill for the purchase price. Renee included a note that said, “If you’re going to collect art, you have to be willing to pay for it.” Thus, began a lifelong love affair with art, deep connections to artists and the creation of a collection of paintings and watercolors, prints and drawings and sculptures that covered the walls of our home. Our mother could tell you the story behind the purchase of every work of art and we wish we had written them all down. Our parents actively involved us in many of their acquisitions and passed along their love of art to us. In fact, we both majored in Art History at college.
Early on, our parents bought art at the Temple Beth El annual art exhibition. One of the works purchased there was Joseph Hirsch, "Girls in Phone Booth". The girls are wearing bikinis. A friend in Portland, reminiscing recently, was surprised that our parents had bought this work, as if the almost naked women did not fit with the friend’s idea of our rather upright parents. Much of their collecting focused on Maine art and artists. They visited galleries up and down the coast from Ogunquit to Camden and attended student shows at what is now the Maine College of Art, buying works by well known artists, emerging artists and students. They did not have a wish list of artists whose works they wanted to buy but looked at what was on view and chose from the available exhibitions.
Their modus operandi when visiting exhibitions was to split up and individually make their way around the gallery. Then, they would come back to together, discuss what they had liked and what they wanted to buy. And very often, their tastes had led them to the same works.
They liked figurative works, there is very little abstraction in the collection. Leonard Baskin was a great favourite and the collection includes two large works, High Bear Standing Rock Sioux and Icarus. They loved paintings of landscapes and cityscapes and the collection is very rich in views of Maine and Portland. On trips to London with their closest friends Harold and Peggy Osher, they bought a small Rembrandt etching and several Daumier prints. They bought some art on their travels to Israel over many years.
They often became close friends with the artists whose work they collected. Stephen and Brownie Etnier were lifelong friends and we would often visit the Etniers at their beautiful home in Harpswell. Roz and Sumner made many trips to Port Clyde to visit the Bill and Helen Thon and Sumner was instrumental in the Thon’s decision to leave the bulk of their estate to the Portland Museum of Art. Michael Waterman created some wonderful drawings on brown wrapping paper of our mother sitting among the collection and in one instance hiding behind a curtain from an artist holding a portfolio of work and about to knock on the door.
Building this collection and living surrounded by it was one of the foundations of our parents’ long and very happy marriage. When these works of art find new homes, we hope these will enrich the lives of the new owners.