Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories

Where: National Portrait Gallery

When: through January 22, 2012

I didn't know much about Gertrude Stein before I went to see this exhibit, so I found it very informative.  I had no idea, for instance, that she was the person to coin the phrase "Lost Generation."  Nor did I know that she and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, are both buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.  I knew that famous people other than Jim Morrisson were buried there, but didn't realize they were among them.

Stein used clothing as a tool to create her identity, and she dressed unconventionally from the time she was in college.  Her clothes were mannish, but interestingly enough, she never wore pants, but always long skirts.  She and Toklas had blue wallpaper with a dove pattern in their Paris apartment at 5, rue Christine, and it is recreated in one of the exhibit rooms.  The apartment seems to have been a combination of  home and salon, as they had artwork displayed in the public rooms and entertained many artists.  Stein took credit for discovering Picasso and was often photographed with his portrait of her, which she bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in her will.

She created "word portraits" of artists; they were designed to evoke, but not describe a person.  A recording of her reading two of her portraits plays in one of the rooms.

The piece with which I was most taken was one by Devorah Sperber, who replicates masterpieces using spools of thread (just the sort of crazy, over-the-top thing I find appealing).  Here, she has recreated Picasso's portrait of Stein.  You have to view it through an acrylic sphere (more over-the-top yet!) in order to see it properly.  It sounds ridiculous, but when you look at it through the little globe - it's amazing.

Verdict: Go see this show; it takes a bit of time to go through all the rooms, but is very interesting and well worth a lunch hour.

1 comment:

  1. So Glad you enjoyed the exhibit! If you'd enjoy quotes and photos of her life, come over to Gertie’s page at! There is always a there there. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude.