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Gallery Three

SARAH AND MICHAEL STEIN AT 58, RUE MADAME

What enticing letters Leo and Gertrude must have sent from Paris to their brother Michael and his wife in California. It was probably at the urging of thirty-three-year-old Sarah, who was taking studio art and art-appreciation classes, that Michael retired from his post as division superintendent of a San Francisco cable-car company and moved his family to Paris in January 1904. They rented an apartment down the street from Leo and Gertrude and enthusiastically threw themselves into Parisian life. They visited the Musée du Louvre almost daily and attended concerts with Theresa Ehrmann, a friend's daughter who had accompanied them to Paris to study piano and take care of the Steins' eight-year-old son.

Sarah and Michael intended to remain in Europe for one year but ultimately stayed for three decades. When their first lease expired, they moved to a nearby apartment at 58, rue Madame. The living/dining room was a white-walled, loftlike space with two thin columns in the middle. Following Leo's lead, Sarah and Michael began purchasing fairly inexpensive pictures by Cézanne, Gauguin, Manguin, Picasso, and Vallotton. Leo introduced them to Matisse in late 1905, and they became close friends.

Despite a critic's warning that the paintings on view at Matisse's second solo exhibition, in spring 1906, would interest only those afraid to seem outdated, Sarah and Michael purchased several. Within three years, the walls of their apartment were filled with Matisse's colorful canvases. With the exception of the artist's own studio, there was no better place to see his recent work.

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