The Jewish Genealogy Association
By Catherine Tomat
Translation by David PRESBURGER-HAUSER
This is a superb exhibition of 200 works held at the Grand Palais until January 16, 2012. It brings together the collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein, who launched in the early 20th century painters such as Matisse, Cézanne and Picasso.
Leo and Gertrude Stein were born in Pennsylvania, USA, in a wealthy Jewish family, Leo in 1872 and Gertrude in 1874. They spent their childhood in France and Austria.
In 1902 they moved to Paris and were regulars in the Montparnasse district. In 1904, their brother Michael and his wife Sarah joined them. They got interested in art: Gertrude especially in modern art such as Cubism, while her brother Leo had more traditional tastes. They discovered Picasso, Matisse, Manet, Gauguin, Renoir and Degas.
Gertrude met Alice Toklas in 1907 who was her companion during her lifelong. Her brother was so jealous he stopped seeing her and left France for Italy, where he settled in Florence until his death in 1947.
After WWI, the value of the painters whose carrier Gertrude and Leo Stein launched exploded and they could no longer afford to purchase their paintings. By then, Michael and Sarah were forced to sell 19 paintings by Matisse in 1920 blocked in Berlin and leave for the United States. At that point Gertrude turns to literature and her Paris apartment becomes a literary salon where, with her partner, she hosts Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. She writes The Autobiography of Alice Toklas in 1933 which becomes a best seller and starts a tour of lectures in the US. She remains friends with Picasso.
During the WWII, they escape persecution thanks to the protection of their friend Bernard Fay, the director of the Library of Vichy. Gertrude Stein died July 27, 1946 at Neuilly-sur-Seine.