The Stein Family



The Stein family are siblings of Leo, Gertrude, Michael and his wife Sarah. These four Americans settled in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. Cultivated, bohemian, sensitive and somewhat concerned with social norms, they constituted one of the finest collections of modern art. Because the Steins have the gift of spotting future talents like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, and above all, of buying with the heart. MyStudiolo traces the life of this sibling, emblematic of the artistic frenzy of the early twentieth century, who acted as a bridge between Europe and the United States: 6 key dates 4 artworks 3 anecdotes 1 quote

1902 Leo moves to 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris. He furnished this studio with rugs and antique furniture that he had acquired in Italy. Gertrude joined him in the fall of 1903, and the studio became a shared workspace where Leo painted and Gertrude wrote. The following year, Michael, the eldest, and Sarah, his wife, crossed the Atlantic, moving into the same neighborhood, rue Madame. Trained by Leo, the instigator of the family collection, the clan runs galleries and Salons, in search of new talents.

1905 Leo's purchase of Woman with a hat by Matisse in 1905 is considered the founding act of the Stein collection. Purchased during the Salon d'Automne, this brightly colored portrait provokes scandal and demonstrates the daring that the family will display in its artistic choices. At the same time, Leo discovered Picasso and acquired the major canvases of the painter, not yet listed on the market. Between 1905 and 1920, nearly 600 paintings passed through their hands: Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, Gris ...

1906 To show off their discoveries, the Steins have a show on Saturdays: Michael and Sarah, at 6 p.m., Gertrude and Leo, at 9 p.m. The walls are covered with paintings by Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vallotton, Gauguin, Picasso or Matisse. The artistic All-Paris flock to it just like the Americans. None of these artists were presented at the Musée du Luxembourg, which was the only museum dedicated to contemporary art. Their apartments are therefore alternatives giving access to the art of the Parisian avant-garde to hundreds of people who otherwise might not have had the chance to see it ...

1913 But Gertrude soon steals the show from her brother. Her friendship with Picasso, her support for the Cubist movement that Leo considers to be a "deep abomination" as well as her affair with his secretary Alice Toklas definitively quarrel Leo and Gertrude. They divide their collection. Gertrude keeps Picasso's paintings and Leo returns to Italy with sixteen Renoir - "A rather amusing background for a leader of the great modern combat", he conceded. They will never see each other again.

1918 World War I had a devastating impact on Sarah and Michael's collection. Although they acquired a little more of Matisse, they did not have the financial resources or the drive to restore their collection to its former glory. The Renoir collection of Leo is partly looted by the art dealer Barnes. Gertrude's financial means no longer allow her to afford Picasso. She then sets her sights on Juan Gris, Balthus and Picabia. Mostly, she writes. The Gertrude Stein myth begins. The personality of this American intellectual, living freely with another woman, fascinates people.

2011 Between them, the Steins have collected several hundred paintings. Of all of them, only Gertrude managed to keep most of her collection throughout her life. If her reputation obscured the paths of his siblings, the truth about the Stein is restored thanks to an international exhibition organized by the Grand Palais, the Museum of Modern Art of San Francisco - hometown of the Steins - and the Metropolitan New York Museum of Art.

Henri Matisse, Woman with a hat, 1905

Pablo Picasso, Horse driver, 1905-06

Juan Gris, The Chessboard, 1915

Pierre-Augustre Renoir, The chocolate cup, 1912


  • Of all the Steins, Gertrude was the most fond of posing. She will have to endure 90 sessions in the glacial studio of the Bateau-Lavoir for Picasso to paint her portrait. In front of Gertrude's astonishment at the masterpiece, he exclaimed: "You will see, you will end up looking like it!" and he was not mistaken.

  • When she definitively quarreled with her brother Leo, in 1913, the sharing of paintings collided with Cézanne's Five Apples, which they both wanted. Gertrude ends up giving it up. To console her, Picasso gave her a watercolor representing an apple at Christmas. She kept it all her life.

  • At first, when Leo discovers Picasso's work, Gertrude totally disapproves of his support. But in 1912, Leo made a famous about-face about the painter's cubist work. While Gertrude supports Picasso, Leo, however ardent defender of modernism, loses interest in this innovative artistic movement.

« When I was in America, I made continual flight travel for the first time. I saw there, on earth, the mixed lines of Picasso, come and go, develop and destroy themselves; I have seen Braque's simplified solutions, Masson's wandering line.»

Gertrude Stein

Discover the exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde at Met

© 2020 par MyStudiolo

Mentions légales