Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso

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Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso
The exhibition currently running at the Musée du Luxembourg is a reminder of the connections between two of the most innovative foreigners who alighted in Paris in the early 20th century. Its title, The Invention of Language, underlines the fact that both Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein were breaking new ground. Their long friendship was a key factor in the creative buzz which enlivened Paris from the earliest 1900s.  Gertude Stein arrived from the U.S. in 1903 and settled into an apartment in the Rue Fleurus in the 6th arrondissement. Independently wealthy, she spent her time on art, visiting exhibitions at the nearby Musée du Luxembourg and trawling markets to buy pieces by newer artists. When an impoverished Picasso moved to Paris in 1904, he too began mixing in artistic circles, so it wasn’t long until they met. Gertrude’s purchase of his painting “Young Girl with a Flower Basket” in 1905 marked the beginning of the period when his fortunes began to turn. She admired the bold picture of a young flower-seller, depicted nude apart from her ribbons and flowers and in due course she became his most enthusiastic patron.    “Young Girl with a Flower Basket” (1905) painting, Pablo Picasso. Credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons The friendship between a wealthy Jew and an impoverished Spanish Catholic, six or seven years her junior (he was only 24) may sound unlikely. But they also had some important things in common, being foreign, newly arrived in the city and eager to make connections in the Paris art world. Gertrude later wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas that she and Picasso “immediately understood each other,” and despite both speaking less-than-perfect French they were soon exchanging ideas on art and feeding off each other.    In the winter of 1905, Picasso asked Stein to sit for a portrait and so began her regular visits to his workshop at the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre. The commission was another step on Picasso’s journey to recognition, for Gertrude was becoming an influential member of the Paris art establishment and the picture would hang in her apartment among works by well-known painters and be seen by the many visitors she invited to join her to discuss art. Some commented that the piece did not resemble its subject very exactly, but Gertrude herself approved, remarking – in her inimitable style! – that “for me, it is I, and it is the only reproduction of me, which is always I.”    Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso inside Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Wikimedia commons
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Lead photo credit : Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, exhibition poster

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.

Comments

  •  Hazel Smith
    2024-01-22 01:46:51
    Hazel Smith
    Your article surpasses the actual exhibit tenfold.

    REPLY

    • Marian Jones
      2024-01-25 05:58:49
      Marian Jones
      Thank you, Hazel. I did enjoy researching 'beyond' the exhibition and reflecting on the ideas it sparked.

      REPLY

  • Jamil SOPHER
    2024-01-18 06:03:43
    Jamil SOPHER
    Is there a book on the exhibit that I might be able to buy? If so, how can I buy it? Jamil Sopher

    REPLY

    • Marian Jones
      2024-01-25 06:03:34
      Marian Jones
      One of the books I saw in the gift shop at the museum is available on Amazon, here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gertrude-Stein-Picasso-Linvention-langage/dp/B0C27L9XD5 It's in French, though.

      REPLY