Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Summer of Gertrude Stein 3: The Steins Collect


Paul Cézanne, Bathers, 1898–1900; The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection; Photo: Mitro Hood

In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein writes:


"During Gertrude Stein's last two years at the Medical School, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, 1900-1903, her brother was living in Florence. There he heard of a painter named Cezanne and saw paintings by him owned by Charles Loeser. When he and his sister made their home in Paris the following year they went to Vollard's the only picture dealer who had Cezannes for sale, to look at them...

Later on Vollard explained to every one that he had been visited by two crazy americans and they laughed and he had been much annoyed but gradually he found out that when they laughed most they usually bought something so of course he waited for them to laugh.

From that time on they went to Vollard's all the time. They had soon the privilege of upsetting his piles of canvases and finding what they liked in the heap. They bought a tiny little Daumier, head of an old woman. They began to take an interest in Cezanne nudes and they finally bought two tiny canvases of nude groups. They found a very very small Manet painted in black and white with Forain in the foreground and bought it, they found two tiny little Renoirs. They frequently bought in twos because one of them usually liked one more than the other one did, and so the year wore on."


Pablo Picasso, The Architect's Table, 1912; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the William S. Paley Collection, 1971; © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo: The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, N

The brother was Leo Stein, who was later written out of history by his sister after their decade of living in Paris together while collecting art. Their split was predicated on a number of things, but the primary disagreement was over Cubism and Gertrude's writing, both of which he considered "rubbish." There was also the arrival of Alice B. Toklas in Paris in 1907 and her moving in to 27, rue de Fleurus in 1910 as the lesbian partner of Gertrude after three years of mutual courtship. Leo the lecturing older brother was replaced by a loving, sexual companion. But we're getting ahead of the story.



The epochal purchase was in 1905 when Leo Stein bought the Matisse painting La Femme au chapeau (above) at the Salon des Independants. According to Janet Hobhouse's Everybody Who Was Anybody:
"Leo was not alone in finding the Matisse horrific. The public and the critics were scandalised. This challenge to a deeply-held conception of beauty now provoked an anger not known since the days of the first Impressionist exhibitions. Crowds gathered in front of his work, not merely jeering, but some poking their canes at the paintings, trying, as Gertrude later wrote, 'to scratch off the paint'. Matisse himself, severely shaken by the reaction, ventured into the Salon only once -- his wife, the model for the picture, not at all."

Henri Matisse, Michael Stein, 1916; SFMOMA, Sarah and Michael Stein Memorial Collection, gift of Nathan Cummings; © Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell
"Such a reaction must have convinced Leo that La Femme au chapeau was an important work, and he set about to persuade his family they must own it. According to Gertrude in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, it was her decision to buy the painting, while Leo wasn't sure. According to [elder brother] Michael (above) and [sister-in-law] Sally Stein (below), it was they who wanted to own it. Their friend Therese Jelenko remembers their reaction 'I can still see Frenchmen doubled up with laughter before it, and Sarah saying "it's superb" and Mike couldn't tear himself away.' "


Henri Matisse, Sarah Stein, 1916; SFMOMA, Sarah and Michael Stein Memorial Collection, gift of Elise S. Haas; © Succession H. Matisse; photo: Ben Blackwell

Matisse and his wife became friends with both the Leo and Gertrude household and the Michael and Sally Stein household, painting the latter's son Allan with his butterfly net (below).


Henri Matisse, Boy With A Butterfly Net, 1907; Collection The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; © 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Sally was an aspiring artist herself and organized a school run by Matisse who she fairly worshiped. When that effort collapsed after a couple of years, her considerable energies were directed towards her conversion to Christian Science, which aggravated her husband and maliciously amused the Gertrude and Leo household.



According to Hobhouse:
"The Stein family's friendship with the Matisses greatly altered the fortunes of the painter and his wife. In the immediate period that followed their meeting, Leo was to buy each year the most important works of the artist [including the 1907 Blue Nude, above left), and to sustain Matisse's belief in his own work. They were also to provide the artist with new patrons and with the society of painters (chief among these Picasso) whose works he might otherwise not have known."

Pablo Picasso, Boy Leading a Horse, 1905–6; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; © Estate of Pablo Picasso

Meanwhile, "Leo had at that time the habit of visiting, among other places of the fringe art-world of Paris, the cafe run by a former clown named Clovis Sagot...One day Clovis told him of a new discovery, the twenty-four-year-old Pablo Picasso. 'Is he like the other Spaniard?' Leo asked. Sagot assured him he was not. "This,' he said, 'is the real thing.'


01. Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, 1905–06; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, bequest of Gertrude Stein, 1946; © Estate of Pablo Picasso

Though it was Leo who "discovered" Picasso and brought him home to dinner, the deep friendship that formed was between Pablo and Gertrude, and it lasted for decades through fights, reconciliations, two world wars, and various wives and mistresses. The friendship was initially forged over a long series of sittings she did for her famous portrait above, eight years after Picasso had stopped using live models altogether.

According to The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:
"I remember not long ago hearing Picasso and Gertrude Stein talking about various things that had happened at that time, one of them said but all that could not have happened in that one year, oh said the other, my dear you forget we were young then and we did a great deal in a year."



Hobhouse again:
"The Steins began to be known as collectors of strange works of modern art, and people asked to see the Cezannes and Matisses that were gradually filling the walls for their flat and adjoining studio. According to Gertrude, it was because of the irregular times of these different visits that she and Leo decided to institute their Saturday evenings. Michael and Sally soon followed their example. They chose to hold their 'salons' at an earlier hour on Saturday, so that visitors could go from one house to the other to view the latest bizarre acquisitions of the eccentric American family."

Henri Matisse, Tea, 1919; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Succession H. Matisse, Paris; Photo: © 2001 Museum Associates / LACMA / Art Resource, NY

The two households' collections were eventually broken up and sold off, for daily living expenses, for money to get through the war(s), and to pay off the gambling debts of Michael and Sally's grandson Daniel Stein (below), named after the patriarch who had sired the remarkable brood. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's show this summer is the first time the entire Stein collection has been reunited from a host of museums and private collections since the beginning of the twentieth century, and the pieces look happy together again.



Linda Wagner-Martin in her Stein family biography writes:
"The Stein family was not, ever, wealthy. It was not, finally, well educated. For its place and time, the Daniel Stein family was a maverick creation...It somehow had the trait that Gertrude defined as "American": that of knowing what it wanted and of knowing that persistence and directed attention might help in getting what it wanted. During the exciting years of "The Stein Corporation," when Leo and Gertrude and Mike and Sally shocked the art world as they purchased one painting after another by Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Gris and then moved on to live from those incredible early purchases, no other collectors took such chances or invested such a high percentage of capital...The Stein family as a unit gave the world a great deal."
Click here for part 1 and here for part 2 of The Summer of Gertrude Stein.

9 comments:

janinsanfran said...

Hey -- I got asked by a SFMOMA guard to erase my pics of people looking at the exhibit. Good for you for getting those!

sfmike said...

Dear Jan: I got invited to a press preview and they allowed us to take panorama shots of the galleries, which is how I managed to get them. The museum also gave out memory sticks with approved images of some of the paintings.

namastenancy said...

What a great series! Have you seen the Picasso exhibit yet? I looked for you but didn't see you.

When I was at the press preview, I had a younger guard tell me not to take photos. She was interrupted by an older guard who said that "it was all right for the press." But I really don't understand their position. It's not like the images aren't available elsewhere.

sfmike said...

Dear Nancy: I'm not on the Fine Arts Museums press list, but I heard from Janos that they weren't allowing any photos at the press preview for the Picasso. I also heard there was some sloppy photo action on the part of some of the journalists at the press previews for the Impressionist shows, or maybe they're just being idiotic and tight-assed. Who knows?

namastenancy said...

I should have been more specific. My bad - I meant that I was taking photos at the Stein show, not the Picasso show. The PTB at the Picasso show were very specific about not taking photos. I think that's because the Picasso family is both avaricious and controlling. I talked to the official photographer for the FAMSF and he indicated, although very politely, that there were many rules and specifications that even he had to follow. It's completely ridiculous because there are images of almost everything in the show on the Internet, if not at the Musee Picasso web site. In this case, I think that the tight assedness came via the Picasso family who are protecting that ass-ett. If what I've read is true, some members of the family are like their dear dear Papa (or grand-papa). Possessive, ever ready to cop the credit for somebody the artistic inventions of others and greedy as all get out.

fmh said...

I am totally loving this "Summer of Gertrude Stein," there are too many events going on and I want to go to all of them.

I recently read this book from a local Bay Area publisher that has a great insight into the Stein circle from Harriet Lane Levy (if you don't know who Levy is, definitely wiki her): http://www.heydaybooks.com/upcoming/paris-portraits.html. I really recommend it.

The really cool thing is that actress Laura Sheppard is actually performing a one-woman show where she "brings to life" Levy's voice in the book. It's a cool thing to tie into all the other Stein events going on, and they even have a performance at the Contemporary Jewish Museum exhibit. There's several shows in SF and around the Bay: http://tinyurl.com/parisportraits

Sorry for the super long comment! I just wanted to share. :)

sfmike said...

Dear fmh: Thanks so much. And I do know who Harriet Levy was, or at least a part of her story. She was the San Francisco neighbor of Alice B. Toklas who lent Alice $1,000 so they could go off to Paris together in 1907. Then, during the protacted romancing between Gertrude and Alice, she was merely in the way and was finally encouraged to revisit San Francisco and not come back. I don't think she ever did get that $1,000 loan back from Alice either. She did get the last laugh in another way, though, being wealthy enough to end up buying some of the famous Stein collection herself from Sarah Stein in Palo Alto when Sarah was paying off her grandson's gambling debts.

I saw her "Paris Portraits" book at the museum and almost bought it but $21.95 for a tiny book seemed a little overpriced to me.

My real question is whether or not Harriet and Alice were "girlfriends" when they took off to Paris. The bio in "Paris Portraits" mentions that Harriet became a San Francisco journalist and had many suitors over the years but never married. If she was a lesbian, she was definitely a closeted one.

cesera said...

Dear  ,

now this wonderfull exhibition,"The Steins Collect;Matisse,Picasso,Cezanne and the Parisian Avant Garde" in NewYork at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ,is over .

It was a little more than twelve months the Steins’s Year .Perhaps more than one million visitors in the five exhibitions .

What a pleasure to see the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira .

Who was as Picasso an antifascist and antinazi artist .Persecuted by Franco and the Nazis .And he is in this exhibition ,thanks to Rebecca Rabinow and Edward Burns.
So Riba-Rovira is beside Tchelitchew and Balthus and Francis Rose near Picabia and Picasso in the last room of this exhibition with Cézanne, Matisse .

You have an interesting article in Appollo London Revew about him .And also in Artes Magazine from San Francisco where the exhibition was before .

The main revelation is in the mention beside the picture with the Preface Gertrude Stein wrote for first Riba-Rovira's exhibition in the Galerie Roquepine in Paris on 1945 .

Where we can read Gertrude Stein writing Riba-Rovira "will go farther than Cezanne...will succeed in where Picasso failed...I am fascinated " by Riba-Rovira Gertrude Stein tells us .

And you are you also fascinated indeed as Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira ?
Me I am when I see « L’Arlequin » on the free access website of « Galeria Muro ».

Gertrude Stein spoke in this same document not only Picasso and Cezanne but also Matisse and  Juan Gris .
Riba-Rovira went each week in Gertrude Stein's saloon rue Christine with Masson, Hemingway and others. By Edward Burns and Carl Van Vechten we can know Riba-Rovira did others portraits of Gertrude Stein .

But we do not know where they are ;and you do you know perhaps ?

With this portrait we do not forget it is the last time Gertrude Stein sat for an artist who is Riba-Rovira .Picasso the first .
This exhibition presents us a world success with this last painting portrait before she died .And her last Gertrude Stein's Art Retrospective before dead .

It illuminates the tone as an esthetic light over that exhibition now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York thanks to Curator Rebecca Rabinow .
Coming from San Francisco "Seeing five stories" in the Jewish museum to Washington in National Portrait Gallery .And after Paris, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York for our pleasure .

And the must is to see for the first time in the same place portraits by Picasso, Picabia, Riba-Rovira, Rose ,Tall-Coat, Valloton .Never before it was .

You have the translate of Gertrude Stein's Riba-Rovira Preface on english Gertrude Stein's page on Wikipedia and in the catalog of this Roquepine exhibition you can see in first place the mention of this portrait .And also other pictures Gertrude Stein bought to Riba-Rovira .
There is another place where you can see now Riba-Rovira's works in an exhibition in Valencia in Spain "Homenage a Gertrude Stein" by Riba-Rovira in Galeria Muro ,if you like art ...

We do not missed today that all over Europe a very bad wind is blowing again bringing the worth in front of us .And we must know that at least were two antinazis and antifascists in this exhibition but the only one fighting weapons in hands would be Riba-Rovira who did one of the first three « affiches » supporting Republicans in the beguining Spanish civil war .

Seeing the Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira in the Metropolitain Museum of New York with Picasso ,Cézanne ,Matisse we feel a recreation of spirit .

cesera said...

With the current controversy about Gertrude Stein and after the Edward Burns's answer it is interesting to Know one of the last Gertrude Stein's vew before dying when she speaks about art it is also politic .

Stein's preface to the exhibition by Francisco Riba Rovira at Roquepine Gallery in May 1945:
« It is inevitable that when we really need someone we find him. The person you need attracts you like a magnet. I returned to Paris, after these long years spent in the countryside and I needed a young painter, a young painter who would awaken me. Paris was magnificent, but where was the young painter? I looked everywhere: at my contemporaries and their followers. I walked a lot, I looked everywhere, in all the galleries, but the young painter was not there. Yes, I walk a lot, a lot at the edge of the Seine where we fish, where we paint, where we walk dogs (I am of those who walk their dogs). Not a single young painter!
One day, on the corner of a street, in one of these small streets in my district, I saw a man painting. I looked at him; at him and at his painting, as I always look at everybody who creates something I have an indefatigable curiosity to look and I was moved. Yes, a young painter!
We began to speak, because we speak easily, as easily as in country roads, in the small streets of the district. His story was the sad story of the young people of our time. A young Spaniard who studied in fine arts in Barcelona: civil war; exile; a concentration camp; escape. Gestapo, another prison, another escape... Eight lost years! If they were lost, who knows? And now a little misery, but all the same the painting. Why did I find that it was him the young painter, why? I visited his drawings, his painting: we speak.
I explained that for me, all modern painting is based on what Cézanne nearly made, instead of basing itself on what he almost managed to make. When he could not make a thing, he hijacked it and left it. He insisted on showing his incapacity: he spread his lack of success: showing what he could not do, became an obsession for him. People influenced by him were also obsessed by the things which they could not reach and they began the system of camouflage. It was natural to do so, even inevitable: that soon became an art, in peace and in war, and Matisse concealed and insisted at the same time on that Cézanne could not realize, and Picassoconcealed, played and tormented all these things.
The only one who wanted to insist on this problem, was Juan Gris. He persisted by deepening the things which Cézanne wanted to do, but it was too hard a task for him: it killed him.And now here we are, I find a young painter who does not follow the tendency to play with what Cézanne could not do, but who attacks any right the things which he tried to make, to create the objects which have to exist, for, and in themselves, and not in relation.
This young painter has his weaknesses and his strengths. His force will push him in this road. I am fascinated and that is why he is the young painter who I needed. He is Francisco Riba Rovira. »
Gertrude Stein


Perhaps you have something to tell about when Gertrude Stein tells us on Cezanne, Riba-Rovira, Matisse, Picasso, Juan Gris...

Because why did she help Riba-Rovira ?

Was she only fascinated by his art ?

Was it a politic mistification and manipulation to make on his back a new vitginity for her...
Because as she tells ,he was persecuted by the nazi .Certainly arrested after "sabotages" in coke working in St Etienne ,if he would not escape from Vannes in a transit camp where the ss wera from Holland he would be send to Mathausen as a red and republican spanish .
But in all that when we saw in the Met the portrait of Gertrude Stein he did we can read in his way of painting a kind touch of something hieratic ,very straight ,as you must to be after beeing down .
All his life fighting the faschism as with Picasso when they did the book to support coke miners in the Asturies who were on stricke in in the sixties ...