Gertrude Stein: Shows Shed New Light on Life of Gertrude Stein

Historians in the News

Gertrude Stein and her family and friends are the focus of two major San Francisco art exhibitions: “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum and “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art...

Here are excerpts of interviews with Janet C. Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA, and the co-curators of “Seeing Gertrude Stein,” Wanda M. Corn, the Robert and Ruth Halperin professor emerita in art history at Stanford University, and Tirza True Latimer, chairwoman of the visual and critical studies department at the California College of the Arts. (Their words have been edited and condensed.)

Q. Stein’s image is cemented in the public imagination through photos that show her unsmiling and serious. “Seeing Gertrude Stein” features a video of her laughing and joking around during her U.S. tour in 1934. Was displaying humor unusual for her?

MS. CORN The artists living in Paris who took her image — and they were all men — have her look stern and austere and powerful and tyrannical. Only in America really did the smiling, warm, funny Stein emerge in the public imagery. That’s partially because she was on the stage, and those qualities also came out when she was lecturing....

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