The Luxembourg Museum in Paris is presenting, until January 28, 2024, an exhibition on the little-known poetic work of Gertrude Stein, alongside the paintings and sculptures of Pablo Picasso.
This exhibition is scheduled as part of the Picasso Celebration 1973-2023, coordinated by the Musée national Picasso-Paris, which on this occasion shares its collection through the exceptional loan of 26 works essentially centered around the heroic years of the Demoiselles d'Avignon and of cubism.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), first collector of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), is one of the great figures of American avant-garde literature of the 20th century. The portrait that Pablo Picasso painted in 1906, a few months after their meeting, sealed in the eyes of posterity their friendly and artistic alliance around Cubism, between painting and writing. The story of their friendship is well known, thanks in particular to Gertrude Stein's account in Alice Toklas's autobiography (1933).
Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris in 1902, Gertrude Stein two years later. The Spanish painter settled in Montmartre, in a precarious workshop at the Bateau-Lavoir, the American writer in a small craftsman's house, rue de Fleurus, a stone's throw from the Luxembourg Museum. Both are foreigners attracted by the artistic and liberal metropolis that is Paris. The question of their cultural identity – Spanish or American – is at the heart of Gertrude Stein's work, from her arrival when she imagines her great book "The Making of Americans".
In the 1910s, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso undertook a radical shift, based on the still life register. Their reflections on the relationship between words or images and things lead them to develop relatively hermetic experimental writing. They carry out a deconstruction of syntax, for the poet, and of volumes and plans, for the painter, leading to the final explosion of the sentence and the form..
American reception of Gertrude Stein's work was slow, despite the reputation of her Salon on the rue de Fleurus and her role as war godmother for GIs engaged in the Great War. Recognition arrived with the autobiography of Alice Toklas (1933), which depicted her friendship with the now famous Pablo Picasso, with also the success, in 1934, of her play Four Saints in Three Acts, set to music by Virgil Thomson, the “American Satie”. She made a triumphant lecture tour across America (Lectures in America, 1935). At the same time, Cubism was presented at the MoMA exhibition in New York, “Cubism and Abstract Art” (1936), as a founding movement in the genealogy of modern American art. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon entered the collections the following year.
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