Gertrude Stein, the unclassifiable American from Paris | RetroNews

Recognition finally came in 1934 and Élisabeth de Gramont, her friend and admirer, was right to confirm in Comodiaon the occasion of the publication of theAutobiography of Alice B. Toklas

“Gertrude Stein has become the greatest American artist and certainly the most original. His books are in the stations, on all the tables and his poem is sung, sung and will be sung (…).

Genie is therefore a long patience. †

In reality, it was less as a writer than as a collector and ‘salonnière’ that Gertrude Stein first gained her fame in France. Together with her brother Léo, who had preceded her in Europe, she was immediately enthusiastic about Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, which were still very controversial at the time. The purchase, in 1905, of Matisse’s Fauve painting, “La femme au chapeau”, which was almost unanimously rejected at the Salon d’Automne, gave Léo and Gertrude the reputation of somewhat eccentric and idiosyncratic Americans, but ardent promoters of pictorial innovation.

The following year, Picasso painted his Portrait of Gertrude Steinwhose strength perhaps reflected the painful pregnancy – it had taken almost a hundred posing sessions to overcome, during which the model amused herself by listening to the painter’s companion, the beautiful Fernande, who recited La Fontaine’s fables …

In a few years, the apartment-workshop at 27 rue de Fleurus, where the brother and sister had settled, had become the meeting place for the most innovative painters, and then for all that Paris had of artists or designers. flanked by expats of different origins and brilliant socialites. If the estrangement with Léo, and his departure to Italy in 1914, led to the partial dissemination of the collection, Gertrude Stein, from the 1900s to the interwar period, remains seen as a major influence on contemporary art. , often photographed at home, in the middle of her paintings (see for example visual arts March 30, 1934).

“Sherwood Anderson has referred to Miss Stein as the American with the surest taste in art (other than music), and many share her opinion” thus confirmed the Chicago Tribune of October 26, 1928.

Another aspect of Gertrude Stein’s life caught the attention of both French and American newspapers: her relationship with France, both central and biased. This Pennsylvania-California American, of German-Jewish descent, was indeed a true Parisienne, though far removed from the beautiful fashionable woman the term suggests. When she had learned French, she always spoke it with a strong accent, and without worrying about reading the text, she concentrated on renewing American prose. at the request of the unyielding one January 6, 1934 “What do you think of France? she could answer:

“I love it, I defend it, I live there. Forgive me, French, if I say it is my country.

This is my country in a very curious sense. It is my country, yet I have the sweet pleasure of noticing that everything about France remains foreign to me.

I look like someone who grew up in a faraway country and who later gets to know his own family. †

Conversely, she summed up her relationship with America in a pithy sentence, entrusted to the Chicago Tribune from October 26, 1928:

“America gave birth to the civilization of the 20”e century, but it is still at the beginning of the Victorian era (…) The United States is currently the oldest country in the world. You always need one, and they’re the ones playing the part. †

In her 43-year life in France, she returned to the United States only once, in 1934-1935, for a long lecture tour whose huge success was not enough to bring her back to her native country. Her modernist sensibility, but also, most certainly, her sexual orientation, even if she never speaks about it publicly, has anchored her deeply in this Paris of the 1900s-1940s, where she enjoyed great personal and intellectual freedom as a privileged American. . †

Her robust and square personality, focused on humor and human contact, made her attentive to people and mores, as she would prove in Paris, Francepublished in 1941. Elisabeth de Gramont noted in 1934:

“Gertrude Stein especially enjoys walking her dog on the sidewalk and chatting with the milker, the butcher, the moving contractor, the little seamstress in the back of the yard, in the garages where the customs technicians work. Indifferent to facades, she knows the soul of backyards. †

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