Richard Frederick Bernstein was born on October 31st 1939, in the Bronx. He was raised in Long Island and graduated from the Pratt Institute with a degree in fine arts.
Bernstein was a longtime member of the Warhol circle. In the early 1960s, he moved into the Chelsea Hotel, which became the home of Edie Sedgwick and other Warhol superstars. In the 70s, he mingled with the art/fashion crowd that had met in Warhol’s Factory and the back room of Max’s Kansas City. He was a Studio 54 regular.
Mr. Bernstein created more than 120 portraits for Interview magazine; they appeared for 15 years, starting in 1972. He also made cover art for Time magazine and work for albums by the singer Grace Jones; stamp designs for the United Nations; and a portrait of Robert F. Kennedy for the Kennedy Library. Using an airbrush, pencil and pastel on photographic portraits, Bernstein made the up-and-coming celebrities of the era - Sylvester Stallone, Calvin Klein and Madonna look sleek and sexy. Megastar, a published collection of his vibrant celebrity portraits, including Cher, Matt Dillon Jackie O, Diana Ross, Richard Gere, Mary Tyler Moore, and many others was published by Indigo Books in 1984. The introduction of the book was written by Paloma Picasso who declared, ”Richard Bernstein portrays stars …. He celebrates their faces, he gives them larger-than-fiction size. He puts wit into the beauties, fantasy into the rich, depth into the glamorous and adds instant patina to newcomers.”
Bernstein’s work was often mistaken for Warhol’s and this was exacerbated by Warhol who delighted in signing the covers of Interview for his fans. ”Richard Bernstein’s faces are wonderful,” Warhol once said, adding, ”They’re so colorful, and he makes everyone look so famous.”
Aged 62, Bernstein died at his ground-floor apartment at the Chelsea Hotel on October 18th 2002.