Sunday, 3 February 2013
Picasso's Portrait of Gertrude Stein
In the early 1900s, Gertrude Stein’s residence in Paris became a gathering place for artists and writers. Some of the visitors who frequented 27, Rue de Fleurus were the young experimental painters whose work Gertrude and her brother Leo Stein had been collecting: Picasso, Braques, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse. Beside the more gregarious and articulate Matisse, Picasso, who was new to France and just learning to speak French, was thought of as "the quiet Spaniard" and was not at first understood by the guests at the Saturday-night dinner parties. But as the number of visitors and the frequency of the salon-evenings increased, Stein's friendship with Picasso blossomed. She became more and more certain of his genius. As her brother increasingly sided with the Impressionists, her taste in art became more experimental, and she was among the first major collectors of the Cubists.
In 1905, Picasso asked her to sit for a portrait, and the results (not Cubist, but representational) were dark, brooding, and strange. Picasso famously said, "Everybody says that she does not look like it but that does not make any difference, she will," which was quoted by Stein in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Stein said later, "I was and still am satisfied with my portrait, for me it is I, and it is the only reproduction of me which is always I, for me." The completion of the portrait marks the beginning of Stein’s interest in portraiture and "resemblance," concepts that would come to influence her writing nearly as much as Picasso’s Cubist philosophies.