Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gertrude Stein

While in Pittsburgh this past weekend for the holiday, I stopped by one of my favorite city neighborhoods, Allegheny West. While on my favorite street I took a picture of this rather non-descript townhouse which was the birthplace of Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). Yes, she's from pittsburgh too, although only spent the first 3 years of her life here before moving to Vienna and Paris. At the time she was born however, this neighborhood was part of a seperate city, Allegheny, which became a part of Pittsburgh later. This neighborhood lies directly north from downtown across the river, behind where the stadiums are today.Gertrude was an important writer who was in the forefront of modern art and literature. She naturally lived in Paris; first with her brother Leo and then with her partner Alice Toklas until her death. She was friends with many of the important artists of the day: Picasso, Matisse, Ernest Hemingway: you name it, if they were important in the arts she knew them. Throughout her life, she felt it important to stay in touch with the young and new, fresh ideas coming into the world and nurturing this talent. She wrote extensively about her relationships with these fascinating characters.
Gertrude Stein by Picasso, 1906.

Among her other writings, she practiced 'automatic writing' that she had learned while at Radcliffe College from 1893-1897 through the help of the psychologist William James. This entailed writing continually through a stream of unconciousnesss while you hold your conscious mind at bay which she used in her word portraits. The importance of the unconscious was an important part of her writing style throughout her lifetime and can be found in nearly all of her work.

Gertrude and Alice in Venice in 1908, at the beginning of their relationship

She quickly became famous in the first decade of the 20th century through her private gallery she collected with her brother, which nurtured a lot of what we consider the modern masters. in 1914 there was a family break and they divided the famous collection. She later sold much of this collection in order to focus on Picasso and Gris.

One of her most famous lines comes from the 1913 poem, Sacred Emily in which she states:

'Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose'. She is also well known for her many books about her relationship with her partner.

I hope you all enjoyed todays brief history lesson!

8 comments:

An Aesthete's Lament said...

And, I do believe, that the Rose of which she writes was a reference to the painter and gadfly Sir Francis Rose, rather than the flower ...

Kwana said...

Thanks so much. I totally enjoyed your morning history lesson. I must practice some automatic writing. I censor myself way too much lately during the first draft when I should be letting go.

willow said...

Love, love, love this painting of Stein by Picasso!!! Love it!! And I never would have been able to tell you that she was born in Pittsburgh, of all places. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

pve design said...

Well, you are just a walking historian, full of intrigue and this post makes me want to know more about her.
Gertrude and Alice were so ahead of their time.

ArchitectDesign said...

I'm a bit of a history buff, I'll admit it! I figured it wasn't very well known that she was from Pittsburgh, I wanted to share it :-)

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I love Pittsburgh and wish I had known it was Gertrude's birthplace when I was there in June. Do you know her opera libretto for "Four Saints in Three Acts" with music by Virgil Thompson? If you ever have a chance to see it performed, it's wacky and wonderful. A great read is Janet Malcom's "Two Lives" about Gertrude and Alice and how they survived the Nazi occupation of France among other things.

ArchitectDesign said...

I didn't know that, Ms. Wis! I'll have to check out both the book and the opera!

Patricia Gray said...

Thanks for the look into the life of this amazing woman. The 'automatic writing' is fascinating.