Celebrating women art patrons: Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein (1874–1946)

Expat American writer who hosted the avant-garde art world at her Paris salons

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 08.18.50Through collecting art, American writer Gertrude Stein solidified her position among avant-garde artists in Paris, and found a community that was supportive of both her experimental work and her lesbian lifestyle. In 1901, Stein dropped out of Johns Hopkins Medical School and followed her aspiring-artist brother, Leo, to London and then Paris.

Through Leo, Stein began to acquaint herself with the bohemian artists living around the Montmartre neighborhood. In 1905, Stein met Pablo Picasso. He began to paint her portrait, which he finished the next year. It was a crucial step in the development of modernism: In the picture, Stein’s face adopts a flatness and mask-like quality that Picasso would soon push to the extreme in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), the firstCubist painting.

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Stein’s patronage helped Picasso to continue painting throughout the early 1900s before he received international acclaim. His portrait of Stein is seen above her left shoulder in the photograph below.

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Stein also collected work by Paul Cézanne, one of the great Post-Impressionist painters, renowned for his radiant landscapes, intense portraits, and complex still lifes.
,Juan Gris and Henri Matisse also benefited from her patronage. Meanwhile, Stein produced her own groundbreaking body of literature, which grew to include Three Lives (1909), Tender Buttons (1914), and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933).

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