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Gallery Six


Unlike Gertrude—and, to a lesser extent, Leo—Sarah and Michael did not publish their memoirs or donate their archives to a research library. In fact, at the end of her life Sarah gathered her extensive correspondence with Matisse and burned it, afraid that it would somehow be misunderstood. Letters from various public and private collections provide a small sense of the important roles that Sarah and Michael played in the Paris art world at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Sarah (or Sally, as she was known to her close friends) had never visited Europe before she arrived in Paris in January 1904. Over the next few years, she met a number of people who would have a significant impact on the development of modern art. Her connections were not limited to the artists whose works she collected. For a time, her upstairs neighbor at 58, rue Madame was Gabriele Münter, the artist and companion of Wassily Kandinsky, whose studio Sarah visited. One constant in Sarah's European life was her allegiance to Matisse, who considered her "the really intelligently sensitive member of the family." Another long-term interest was the Christian Science Church, which she had joined in San Francisco and continued to be involved with throughout her decades in France.

Michael (or Mike, to his friends and family) has long been considered the most responsible of the Stein siblings. Correspondence reveals that it was he who oversaw repeated repairs to Leo and Gertrude's studio, safeguarded their paintings during World War I, and arranged to have palettes of artwork shipped to Baltimore for the Cone sisters. Michael fully embraced the Paris art world, frequenting galleries and auctions and enthusiastically educating himself about art history. It is generally believed that after retiring from the San Francisco cable-car company, Michael never worked again, but several letters refer to his plans to refinish and resell Italian Renaissance furniture and to his later jewelry business, for which he employed an Italian craftsman to create one-of-a-kind designs.

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