John Berninger (1897 – 1981)
John Berninger was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1897. Painting in oil from his early teens, it was not until his late twenties that Berninger made a serious attempt at painting as a vocation.
As a young man, he owned and operated a jewelry store in Allentown. In his free time, Berninger took private lessons at the studios of Orlando Wales and A. N. Lindenmuth, and in 1926 enrolled at the newly formed Baum School of Art under the personal instruction of Walter Baum. Berninger studied under Baum for three years, during which he began exhibiting his work at the Baum School as well as in exhibitions in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. By 1930, his paintings were accepted by the Philadelphia Art Alliance’s Circulating Picture Club and included in Philadelphia Sketch Club exhibitions.
In 1932, he was asked by Walter Baum to be an instructor at the Kline-Baum Art School, a position that lasted eight years. In 1936, Berninger became the first curator of the Allentown Art Museum, holding this position for twenty years. He was also a member of the museum’s board of directors and a charter member of the Lehigh Valley Art Alliance.
Berninger would often spend Sundays paintings with his close friend, Melville Stark, and his former instructor, Walter Baum. He frequently traveled during the summer to Bar Harbor, Maine, and painted scenes along the New England coast.
Berninger is one of the premier artists to come out of the Baum School and is best known for his well-executed landscapes of the Lehigh Valley. His paintings display a certain consistency and quality about them. He was adept in his ability to utilize shadows and work with sunlight as well as to create well-balanced compositions. This combination of skills often results in a very pleasing picture.