The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is currently mounting an exhibition titled The Steins Collect. The show gathers paintings from the collections of Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael's wife Sarah. The four -- and Stein's partner, Alice B. Toklas -- lived as expatriates in Paris early in the last century. Among others, they befriended Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso before they were luminaries, and collected their work before it was priceless. I visited the museum on Saturday to see the exhibition.
For me the high point was the unexpected pleasure of seeing Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse again, less than a year since I last visited the painting at its permanent home at New York's MOMA. But the show was rich both in work I had seen before and that I had not, and well worth the (somewhat startling) ticket price, $25 total (for the museum admission plus a supplement for the special exhibition). In addition to Matisse and Picasso, the exhibition features work by Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Here are Picasso's portrait of Gertrude (from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art) and portraits by Matisse of Michael and Sarah (from SF MOMA's own collection):
And Picasso's magnificent work, Boy Leading a Horse:
The damning-personal-confession part of this blog post? I've never really warmed to Gertrude Stein's work.
Yeah, Oakland is practically across the street from where I live, so I've regurgitated more than my share of Stein's "there is no there there," enough that I want to slap myself silent when I'm tempted to repeat the trope yet again. But I've had a hard time plowing through Stein's actual work.
I found Alice B. Toklas' (auto)biography kind of amusing, but I was young and impressionable when I read it. Nowadays I'm inclined to wonder what the world really gained from "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" three hundred years after Billy Shakespeare declaimed in the voice of Juliet that, "A rose / By any other name would smell as sweet."
Okay, end of sour rant. Gertrude Stein and her family clearly had an eye for art.
The SF MOMA exhibition opened two weeks ago, and runs through September 6, 2011.
Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Art as long as history, time beyond memory
Gustav Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer: a saga
Art bliss at MOMA