Paris, 1906

30 Jan 2007

GSteinRecently, I was reading about the following: In 1906 Picasso painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein who was, at the time, a smart rich girl with a big personality, a taste for art and no job or direction. Picasso was penniless, represented by a middle-of-the-road gallery in paris, and showing virtuoso talent that was, as of then, unfocused and under-appreciated. But stein saw something in his work and in him and became his patron.

The portrait effectively marks the beginning of Picasso’s great innovations in art, and it does so by way of some clear borrowing, inspiration and competition from, by and with other painters. It also marks the beginning of Stein’s life as a seriously committed and innovative writer.

They both sensed that something important was happening with the painting and themselves. Neither took it lightly, and both almost immediately mythologized it.
Throughout her life, Stein chose to highlight the intense struggle that Picasso seemed to go through while painting and re-painting the portrait. A lot of it was BS, but we do know that he worked and re-worked her head. Her re-worked head, became such a head of reworking, where she worked and re-worked Picasso.

If you can get your hands on the Met’s ’07 Winter Bulletin, do so. It gives the story in great detail. Or go to for a lightweight version of the story. Very cool.