Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
American writer, eccentric, whose Paris home was a salon for the Cubist and experimental artist and writers, among them Henri Matisse, Sherwood Anderson, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. In Paris Stein became a legend with her Roman senator haircut, verbal facility and especially surviving the German occupation and percecution of sexual minorities and Jews in France.
"Most of us balk at her soporific rigmaroles, her echolaliac incantations, her half-witted-sounding catalogues on numbers; most of us read her less and less. Yet, remembering especially her early work, we are still always aware of her presence in the background of contemporary literature - and we picture her as the great pyramidal Buddha of Jo Davidson's statue of her, eternally and placidly ruminating the gradual developments of the process of being, registering the vibrations of a psychological country like some august human seismograph whose charts we haven't the training to read." (Edmund Wilson in Axel's Castle, 1931)
Gertrude Stein was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, of educated German-Jewish immigrants. Her father, Daniel Stein, was a traction-company executive, who had become wealthy through his investments in street railroads and real estate. His business took the family for four years to Vienna and Paris, when Stein was a child. In 1879 the family returned to America. She made SUBSEQUENTLY with her parents several cultural trips to Europe. In 1893 Stein entered Harvard Annex (now Radcliffe College) in Cambridge. She studied psychology under William James (1842-1910) and experimented with automatic writing under his direction. James also visited Stein in Paris in 1908. After studies at Johns Hopkins medical school, Gertrude Stein moved to Paris. She lived there from 1903 with her brother Leo, and from 1914 with her life companion, Alice B. Toklas, an accomplished cook for the salon's guests at the 27 Rue de Fleurus flat, near Luxembourg Gardens. Her salon attracted intellectuals and artists to discuss new ideas in art and politics. In the atmosphere of creative energy, Stein also wanted to produce a literary version of the new art. As a writer Stein made her debut with THREE LIVES (1909), clearly influenced by the Jameses, novelist Henry and psychologist William. The book was based on a reworking of a late Flaubert text called Trois Contes. She and her brother started to collect works by contemporary painters.
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Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
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