At Home with Artists Looking On

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Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories  Curated by Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True LatimerSeeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories
Curated by Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer
U. of California Press.  403 pages, $45.

 

FEW AUTHORS have been more intent on making a reputation for themselves than Gertrude Stein. The fact that her name is known today by many people who have never read a word she wrote testifies to the success—but also somewhat to the failure—of her endeavor. As depicted most recently by Kathy Bates in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which examined the continuing American fascination with an image of Paris in the 1920’s that Stein did a great deal to create, Stein is better known for the artistic careers she fostered than for her own creative output.

Stein and Toklas
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Aix-les-Bains, France, ca. 1927. photograph, Yale Collection of American Literature

The essays in this catalog, while they certainly speak about Stein’s writings, are not intended to rectify that situation. Instead, Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer discuss a remarkable and highly diverse collection of visual artifacts from the lives of Stein and her longtime companion, Alice B. Toklas. As Corn remarks, no one understood better than Stein “the power of imagery to shape her reputation and public identity.” The curators examine how she went about that task while helping to shape modern art itself.

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