Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 60

A sketch by Tom Hachtman

Aquarie Gertrude comes up for another spin around the virtual sun of birthdays this very day today. And a great birthday it is. 2011 is promising a big comeback for Stein -- in the California of her youth, of all places. San Francisco is preparing the unusual festivities: two major exhibitions focused on Stein. And for the first time ever in this city, two museums are coordinating their efforts and their programming to present the multiple facets of their topic. At the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the focus is on Stein's personality. "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories" will show Stein in a way she has never yet been shown -- through her domestic life, the art of friendship, her celebrity, her survival during the war, and her legacy. Here is how the museum presents this unique project:

"Drawing upon a wealth of rarely seen artistic and archival materials, Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories illuminates  Stein's life and pivotal role in art during the 20th century. (...) Through a portrayal of Stein's contributions in her writings, patronage, and lifestyle, the exhibition provides an intimate look at Stein's complex relationship to her identity, culture, and history. Seeing Gertrude Stein also explores the ways in which Stein's life and writings have impressed themselves upon the American artistic imagination and inspired generations of writers, artists, musicians, and performers." This exhibition will open on May 12 and later to on to the National Portrait Gallery in D.C.

If this isn't promising, next-door neighbor SFMOMA proposes to present the Stein siblings as major early collectors of modern art, on May 21st: The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde. Similar attempts have been made in the past, in Europe and the States (for example,"Four Americans In Paris" at the MOMA New York, in 1970) and now is the time for them to be reconsidered and reviewed.

SFMOMA announces:

"Co-organized by SFMOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, this major touring exhibition of paintings, drawings, and sculptures reunites the collections of author Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael Stein, and Michael's wife, Sarah Stein. As American expatriates, the Steins were part of the vibrant cultural life of Paris in the early 20th century, where they hosted prestigious salons and developed close friendships with leading artists of the day, most notably Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, whose works they collected in depth and form the core of this presentation. The exhibition will demonstrate not only the importance of the Steins' patronage but also how they developed a new international standard of taste for modern art, acquiring works by Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Juan Gris, Marie Laurencin, Matisse, Francis Picabia, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others. Sarah and Michael Stein's return to Palo Alto, California, in 1935, the same year SFMOMA was founded, was instrumental in the making of the museum's collection, and SFMOMA's presentation will underscore Bay Area connections to the Steins."

To round out the fabulous menu, appetizers will be served in the form of lectures (one series co-organized with UC Berkeley and, yes, yours truly will be part of that), and desserts in multimedia -- a Stein opera and a performance piece -- will be offered. And if this isn't exciting yet, a month later, the De Young Museum will offer Picasso, and the San Francisco Center of the Book an exhibition of books and artefacts about ... you guessed it.

Happy birthday, Gertrude. You predicted it, didn't you? "I will be well welcome when I come."


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Comment by Renate Stendhal on February 4, 2011 at 12:03pm

Cathy, great to hear this. It's truly the first time, as far as I know, that Stein's whole persona is getting the spotlight in an exhibition, and this one seems extremely well planned and researched. I can tell from my talks with the curators that it will be a very special event.

I know the refreshingly honest and quite shocking Anais Nin story and bio: sex, lies and diaries!


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