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Gallery Seven


By late 1910 the modest two-bedroom apartment at 27, rue de Fleurus that Leo had initially rented for himself was home to three occupants: Leo, Gertrude, and her companion, Alice Toklas. Leo's increasing deafness led him to distance himself from the Saturday evening salons, and by early 1913 he recognized that it was time for him to leave rue de Fleurus altogether. "The presence of Alice was a Godsend as it enabled the thing to happen without any explosion," he explained to a friend. "[Gertrude] hungers & thirsts for gloire and it was of course a serious thing for her that I can't abide her [writing] and think it abominable. . . . To this has been added my utter refusal to accept the later phases of Picasso with whose tendency Gertrude has so closely allied herself. . . . Both [Picasso] & Gertrude are using their intellects, which they ain't got, to do what would need the finest critical tact, which they ain't got neither, and they are in my belief turning out the most go'almighty rubbish that is to be found."

Leo and Gertrude divided their collection. Gertrude kept the Picasso paintings and Leo took sixteen Renoirs—"Rather an amusing baggage for a leader in the great modern fight," he conceded. Leo was relieved to live a quieter, simpler life, marrying Nina Auzias in 1921. He spent the rest of his years in Italy, France, and the United States, painting, writing, and lecturing about aesthetics.

Meanwhile, Gertrude and Alice renovated the atelier, installing electricity, a fireplace, and a new doorway with a small portico that connected it to the apartment. Gertrude removed the frames from most of her paintings, accentuating her more orderly display. She focused on writing and finding publishers for her texts. "I would be so much more pleased if you were more interested in my work than in my personality," she explained to the editor of Vanity Fair. "It really is the only literature that has come out of America since Henry James." Her friends noted that in books such as Tender Buttons (1914) and The Making of Americans (1925), Gertrude was "doing the same thing in literature that Matisse & Picasso [were] doing in art."


By 1906 Matisse was generally acknowledged as the leader of a new school of painting. Picasso, in contrast, was working in a more traditional vein. In summer 1907 the twenty-five-year-old Spaniard went on the offensive. He criticized Matisse's Blue Nude (on view in the exhibition), which had debuted at the spring 1907 Salon des Indépendants and afterward hung in Leo and Gertrude's atelier. Picasso appropriated Matisse's figure of a woman with a bent upraised elbow and crooked knee and rotated her to a standing position. She appears in three of Picasso's most significant proto-Cubist paintings: Nude with Drapery (1907; State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg); Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907; Museum of Modern Art, New York); and Three Women (1908; State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg), the latter of which was purchased by Leo and Gertrude. The Steins also owned at least thirteen related watercolor and graphite studies from a notebook known as Carnet 10. After Leo moved to Italy, Gertrude displayed the Carnet 10 artworks in two neat rows on her wall.


Leo and Gertrude owned more than one hundred drawings by Picasso. It was not unusual for the siblings to purchase groups of sketches directly from him as soon as they were made. A few were framed and displayed on their walls, but the majority were kept in portfolios and brought out for interested guests. The Steins encouraged their friends to buy drawings and watercolors from Picasso as well. In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), Gertrude recalled that Etta Cone, a friend from Baltimore, "found the Picassos appalling but romantic. She was taken there by Gertrude Stein whenever the Picasso finances got beyond everybody and was made to buy a hundred francs worth of drawings. After all a hundred francs in those days was twenty dollars. She was quite willing to indulge in this romantic charity. Needless to say these drawings became in very much later years the nucleus of her collection."

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