Born in Riga in 1859. At the age of thirteen entered the workshop of Professor of sculpture D. Jensen in Riga, and a year later left for Petersburg, where he attended the drawing school of the Society Arts’ Encouragement. From 1879 to 1881, he studied at the Academy of fine arts. Gained fame as the sculptor-portraitist, having made a series of busts of famous Russian writers, scientists, musicians, etc. The best of them are considered the busts of Fonvizin, Dostoevsky, Goncharov, Saltykov, Katkov, Rubinstein, and Pushkin.
In 1882 made a journey through Germany and Italy. In 1883, he returned to Petersburg and continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1884, the artist left the Acodemy and went abroad. First in Rome and then in Florence, where he earned money by making portraits from photos, and studied under the guidance of Professor Rivalti. Participated in several art exhibitions. In 1884-85, he exhibited sculptures "Neapolitan fisherman," "David" and "Head of a Monk" in Rome, which attracted rave reviews from Italian critics.
In 1890 in the galleries of Georges Petit Bernstein exhibited the entire collection of statuettes representing the amazing diversity of attitudes and costumes, all types of foreigners that visited the Paris world exhibition in 1889. Crowds of people came to this exhibition; the President Carnot visited the exhibition as well. The sculptor in this collection of figurines brilliantly displayed vivid images and characters of the visitors.
Since 1887, the sculptor annually exhibited his works at the Champs Elysees Salon. His talent was growing, and the themes became more diverse. He was the author of the sculptures "The Pillory", "First Arrow" and "The Executioner of John the Baptist." For various compositions and busts, the exhibition jury awarded him with a silver medal in 1889. At the same time, he made a plaster cast of Charles Floquet, a marble bust on the topic of "Modesty" (purchased by Italian count Torelli). In 1891, French government awarded the sculptor with the order of the Legion of Honor. In 1894, he molded a sculpture group "Christ and a faithless wife"; in 1895, he created a bronze bust of "Jules Cheret".
In 1896, Bernstein was invited to Russia to make busts of reigning monarchs. He came to Tsarskoye Selo and started to work. In addition, the sculptor created a sculpture group called "Peter the Great and Louis XV" for the Paris exhibition of 1900. In 1901, he received an order from the St. Petersburg Conservatory to create a marble statue of Rubinstein. Mainly the Emperor Alexander III and the Italian government bought Bernshtam works.
The artist lived in France, periodically visiting Russia. Participated in the exhibitions of the Paris salon (1886), international exhibitions in Venice (1895, 1897), Paris (1900), Liege (1905), Rome (1911). Held a personal exhibition in Paris gallery "Georges Petit" (1889).
He created the indoor and monumental sculpture. The main genre throughout his work was the portrait. Participated in contests for the creation of monuments to M. I. Glinka (1903), Alexander II (1911) and Alexander III (1913) for St. Petersburg. Bernshtam is the author of the monument to the satirical dramatist E. Peyleron in Paris (1906), G. Berlioz in Monte Carlo (1907), G. Flaubert in Rouen (1907), A. Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo (established in 1937), as well as sculptural compositions, monuments of the "Peter the great and Louis XV" in Peterhof (1902), "Peter I rescuing drowning in Lahta" in St. Petersburg (1907), "Peter I — the carpenter" in Saardam and St Petersburg (1910), "Peter I, resting on the tower" in Vyborg (1910). Executed a number of works with theological and mythological plots ("The First Arrow", 1889; "Christ and the Sinner", 1894; "Snakes Charmer", 1895).
Bernshtam works are stored in various museum's collections, including the State Tretyakov gallery, the State Russian Museum, Versailles and others.
Died in 1939 in Paris.