A view of the exhibition with a portrait of Gertrude Stein by Andy Warhol.

Gertrude Stein Multi-talented

Posted by Speakeasy News > Friday 15 December 2023 > Shine Bright Lycée What's On

Gertrude Stein is probably best known for her "salon" in Paris where she nurtured artistic talents as diverse as Matisse and Braque, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. But her experimental, minimalist writing has been highly influential on generations of creatives right up to today, as is shown in the Gertrude Stein and Picasso: Inventing Language exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris.

Picasso was another of Stein's protégés, and she and her brother Leo were some of the first collectors to take an interest in his work. Stein and Picasso actively worked together on reinventing portraiture and portraying the real, leading early in their careers to  Cubism and Stein's Word Portraits.

Pablo is doing abstract portraits in painting. I am trying to do abstract portraits in my medium, words.
Gertrude Stein, 1945

This one was one who was working. This one was one being one having something being coming out of him. This one was one going on having something come out of him. This one was one going on working. This one was one whom some were following. This one was one who was working. 
Gertrude Stein, "Pablo Picasso", 1909

Exact resemblance to exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as a resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly a resemblance, exactly and resemblance. For this is so.  Because.
Gertrude Stein, “If I told him. A Completed Portrait of Picasso”, 1930

A 1922 photographic portrait of Gertrude Stein by American photographer Man Ray. She is seated in front of her 1906 portrait by Picasso. Stein wrote of Picasso's portrait, “For me it is I, and it is the only reproduction of me which is always I, for me.” (1938)

Gertrude Stein was born in 1874 in Pennsylvania into a wealthy family of German-Jewish immigrants. She studied psychology at Radcliffe College (Harvard's women's college) and went on to study medicine for four years, though at the the time, as a woman, she could not receive a degree for either. In 1903, she moved to Paris with her brother Leo and her life-long partner Alice B. Toklas. Stein experimented with language and different genres throughout her life. (She died in Paris in 1946.)

A poster for a theatre performance of Stein's work along with Picasso and T.S. Eliot, 1952.

Her work, as the exhibition shows, also inspired artists in other fields such as dance, art and experimental music. Minimalist composer John Cage wrote songs based on her texts, and with choreographer Merce Cunningham, dance pieces. There are a whole series of videos of dance pieces in the exhibition, from Cunningham but also Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, often faeturing repetitive movements, breaking down dance as Stein aimed to break down language.

Emulation in art
There are many artworks of or inspired by Stein, such as Bruce Nauman's study for a neon work using the idea of words becoming images.

When I said. A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. And then later made that
into a ring I made poetry.
G. Stein, Lectures in America, 1935

Bruce Nauman, "Study for Pleasure, Pain, Life, Death, Love, Hate", 1983. The finished work is in neon lights.

Andy Warhol represented Stein several times (see top image). Korean American artist and composer Nam June Paik included Stein in a series of "robots" he created of his cultural heroes and heroines. His Stein robot references the performative aspects of her work, with video images, gramophone sound horns and records, and reproductions of her art collection on the sides.

Nam June Paik, Gertrude Stein, 1990

This exhibition would be a good companion to Shine Bright LLCER File 3 Minimal Arts.

Gertrude Stein and Picasso: Inventing Language
Musée du Luxembourg, Paris
Till 28 January 2024

Poster for the exhibition, with an image from Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon.