An Eye for Genius: The Collections of Gertrude and Leo Stein
It’s easy to see the value of a Picasso painting now. But would you have bought one in 1905, before the artist was known? These siblings did.
By Arthur Lubow ~ Smithsonian magazine
Pictured are Gertrude, left, and Leo, center, by Picasso and sister-in-law Sarah by Matisse. ~ The Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Gertrude Stein, 1946, Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
With its acid colors and slapdash brush strokes, the painting still jolts the eye. The face, blotched in mauve and yellow, is highlighted with thick lines of lime green; the background is a rough patchwork of pastel tints. And the hat! With its high blue brim and round protuberances of pink, lavender and green, the hat is a phosphorescent landscape by itself, improbably perched on the head of a haughty woman whose downturned mouth and bored eyes seem to be expressing disdain at your astonishment.
If the picture startles even after a century has passed, imagine the reaction when Henri Matisse’s Woman with a Hat was first exhibited in 1905. One outraged critic ridiculed the room at the Grand Palais in Paris, where it reigned alongside the violently hued canvases of like-minded painters, as the lair of fauves, or wild animals. The insult, eventually losing its sting, stuck to the group, which also included André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. The Fauves were the most controversial artists in Paris, and of all their paintings, Woman with a Hat was the most notorious.
“Woman with a Hat”
Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
So when the picture was later hung in the Parisian apartment of Leo and Gertrude Stein, a brother and sister from California, it made their home a destination. “The artists wanted to keep seeing that picture, and the Steins opened it up to anyone who wanted to see it,” says Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which organized “The Steins Collect,” an exhibition of many pieces the Steins held. The exhibition goes on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from February 28 to June 3. (An unrelated exhibition, “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” about her life and work, remains at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery until January 22.)
When Leo Stein first saw Woman with a Hat, he thought it “the nastiest smear of paint” he had ever encountered. But for five weeks, he and Gertrude went to the Grand Palais repeatedly to look at it, and then succumbed, paying Matisse 500 francs, the equivalent then of about $100. The purchase helped establish them as serious collectors of avant-garde art, and it did still more for Matisse, who had yet to find generous patrons and desperately needed the money. Over the next few years, he would come to rely for financial and moral support on Gertrude and Leo, and even more on their brother Michael and his wife, Sarah. And it was at the Steins’ that Matisse first came face to face with Pablo Picasso. The two would embark on one of the most fruitful rivalries in art history.
For a few years the California Steins formed, improbably enough, the most important incubator for the Parisian avant-garde. Leo led the way. The fourth of five surviving children born to a German Jewish family that had relocated from Baltimore to Pittsburgh and eventually to the San Francisco Bay area, he was a precocious intellectual and, in childhood, the inseparable companion of his younger sister, Gertrude. When Leo enrolled at Harvard in 1892, she followed him, taking courses at the Harvard Annex, which later became Radcliffe. When he went to the World Exposition in Paris in the summer of 1900, she accompanied him. Leo, then 28, liked Europe so much that he stayed, residing first in Florence and then moving to Paris in 1903. Gertrude, two years younger, visited him in Paris that fall and did not look back.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/An-Eye-for-Genius-The-Collections-of-Gertrude-and-Leo-Stein.html#ixzz1jk5UB3tE
Photos from: “An Eye for Genius: The Collections of Gertrude and Leo Stein”
Send by Puchy ~ For Cjaronu
January 17, 2012
Published by Maggie