The Full Wiki

Gertrude Stein: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Gertrude Stein

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1935
Born February 3, 1874(1874-02-03)
Allegheny, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died July 27, 1946 (aged 72)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Occupation writer, poet
Nationality American
Literary movement Modernist literature

Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two primary relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874-1914 (Gertrude and Leo), and the second with her partner Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein's death in 1946 (Gertrude and Alice). Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo and then with Alice. Throughout her lifetime, Stein also cultivated significant relationships with well-known members of the avant garde artistic and literary world.



Stein was gregarious and had a wealth of friends and modern paintings that attracted many to her Paris salon.[1] Her personality also allowed her to transform her social outlets, by focusing on new friendships, members of the youthful generation of the time. For example, Stein was friends with "up and coming" artists Matisse and Picasso in the early 1900s[6], writers Thornton Wilder and Ernest Hemingway in the 20s[7], and with the American GI's in the 40s.[8]

Each period marked Stein's connections with young, and artistic people at the center of contemporary developments and events. Her writing reflects, or in the case of The Autobiography, reflects on each decade.

Gertrude Stein's early life

Gertrude Stein, the youngest of a family of five children, was born in 1874 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (merged with Pittsburgh in 1907)[9], to well-educated German-Jewish immigrant parents. (Stein family portrait) (image of Gertrude at between two and three years old) (four years old) Her father, Daniel Stein, was an executive with a railroad, whose prudent investments in streetcar lines and real estate had made the family wealthy. When Gertrude was three years old, the Steins moved for business reasons first to Vienna (Stein children in Vienna, with governess and tutor) and then to Paris. Her family returned to America in 1878, settling in Oakland, California, where she attended First Hebrew Congregation of Oakland's Sabbath school..[2]

In 1888, Amelia Stein (Gertrude's mother) died, and in 1891 Daniel Stein (Gertrude's father) died. Michael Stein (her eldest brother) took over the family business holdings, and made wise business decisions and arranged the affairs of his siblings. Michael arranged for Gertrude, and her sister Bertha, to live with their mother's family in Baltimore after the deaths of their parents. (Mellow, 1974, pp. 25-28). In 1892 she lived with her uncle David Bachrach.[3] It was in Baltimore that Gertrude met Claribel Cone and Etta Cone who held Saturday evening salons which Gertrude would later emulate in Paris, who shared an appreciation for art and conversation about it, and who modeled a domestic division of labor that Gertrude was later to replicate in her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. (Ibid. pp. 41-42).

Gertrude attended Radcliffe College from 1893-1897, and studied under the psychologist William James. Under James' supervision, Stein and another student named Leo Solomons conducted experiments on Normal Motor Automatism, a phenomenon hypothesized to occur in people when their attention is split between two simultaneous intelligent activities, like writing and speaking. These experiments bore examples of writing that appeared to represent "stream of consciousness," a psychological theory often attributed to James, which became the term used to describe the style of modernist authors like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. In 1934, behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner in fact interpreted Stein's notoriously difficult poem, Tender Buttons, as an example of the "normal motor automatism" Stein had written about in the experiment at Radcliffe.[4] According to a letter she wrote in the 1930s, however, Stein had never fully accepted the theory of automatic writing, explaining: "there can be automatic movements, but not automatic writing. Writing for the normal person is too complicated an activity to be indulged in automatically."[5] At Radcliffe, she began a lifelong friendship with Mabel Foote Weeks, whose correspondence traces much of the progression of Gertrude's life. In 1897, Gertrude spent the summer in Woods Hole, Massachusetts studying embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory, followed by two years at Johns Hopkins Medical School. In 1901, she left Johns Hopkins without obtaining a degree. Hopkins Medical News: The Unknown Gertrude at

Gertrude and Leo Stein's modern art gallery

Much of Gertrude Stein's fame derives from a private modern art gallery she assembled, from 1904 to 1913, with her brother Leo Stein.[6] The collection quickly commanded a worldwide reputation;[7] the salon, and the social circle that developed around it, provided the inspiration for The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Leo Stein's acquaintances and study of modern art provided the seed for the famous Stein art collections. He began with Bernard Berenson, who hosted Gertrude and Leo in his English country house in 1902, and who suggested Paul Cézanne and Ambroise Vollard's art gallery.[8]

The joint collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein began in late 1904, when Michael Stein announced that their trust account had accumulated a balance of 8,000 francs. They spent this windfall at Vollard's Gallery, buying Gauguin's Sunflowers[9] and Three Tahitians,[10] Cézanne's Bathers,[11] and two Renoirs.[12]

The art collection grew and the walls at 27 Rue de Fleurus were continuously rearranged to make way for new acquisitions.[13] In "the first half of 1905" the Steins acquired Cézanne's Portrait of Mme Cézanne and Delacroix's Perseus and Andromeda.[14] Shortly after the opening of the Paris Autumn Salon of 1905 (on October 18, 1905), the Steins acquired Matisse's Woman with the Hat[15] and Picasso's Young Girl with Basket of Flowers (lower left).[16]

By early 1906, Leo and Gertrude Stein's studio was filled with paintings by Henri Manguin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Honoré Daumier, Henri Matisse, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.[17] Their collection was reflective of two famous art exhibitions that took place during their residence together in Paris, and to which they contributed, either by lending their art, or by patronizing the featured artists.[18] Collecting was a shared interest in Gertrude and Leo's inner circle; their elder brother, Michael, and sister-in-law Sarah (Sally) acquired a large number of Henri Matisse paintings; Gertrude's friends from Baltimore, Claribel and Etta Cone, collected in a similar vein, eventually donating their art collection, virtually intact, to the Baltimore Museum of Art.[19] While numerous artists circulated into the Stein salon, many of these artists were not represented among the paintings on the wall at 27 Rue de Fleurus. Where Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso's works dominated Leo and Gertrude's collection, Sarah Stein's collection focused on Matisse.[20]

Contemporaries of Leo and Gertrude, Matisse and Picasso became part of their social circle, and were a part of the early Saturday evenings at 27 Rue de Fleurus. Gertrude attributed the beginnings of the Saturday evening salons to Matisse, as

[m]ore and more frequently, people began dropping by to see the Matisse paintings--and the Cézannes: "Matisse brought people, everybody brought somebody, and they came at any time and it began to be a nuisance, and it was in this way that Saturday evenings began."[21]

Among the Picasso circle who frequented the Saturday evenings were: Fernande Olivier (Picasso's mistress), Georges Braque (artist), André Derain (artist), Max Jacob (poet), Guillaume Apollinaire (poet), Marie Laurencin (Apollinaire's mistress and an artist in her own right), Henri Rousseau (painter).[22]

A permanent familial break, and a separation of the art collection, was finalized in April 1914, when Leo moved to Settignano, Italy, near Florence. The division of their art collection was described in a letter by Leo, in which he stated:

The Cézanne apples have a unique importance to me that nothing can replace. The Picasso landscape is not important in any such sense. We are, as it seems to me on the whole, both so well off now that we needn't repine. The Cézanne's had to be divided. I am willing to leave you the Picasso oeuvre, as you left me the Renoir, and you can have everything except that. I want to keep the few drawings that I have. This leaves no string for me, it is financially equable either way for estimates are only rough & ready methods, & I'm afraid you'll have to look upon the loss of the apples as an act of God. I have been anxious above all things that each should have in reason all that he wanted, and just as I was glad that Renoir was sufficiently indifferent to you so that you were ready to give them up, so I am glad that Pablo is sufficiently indifferent to me that I am willing to let you have all you want of it.[23]

After Gertrude's and Leo's households separated in 1914, she continued to collect examples of Picasso's art which had turned to Cubism (Gertrude several years later). At her death, Gertrude's remaining collection focused on the artwork of Picasso and Juan Gris, having sold most of her other pictures.[24]

Paris, 1903-1914

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. When someone commented that Stein didn't look like her portrait, Picasso replied, "She will".[25]

In 1903, Gertrude Stein moved to Paris during the height of artistic creativity gathering in Montparnasse.

From 1903 to 1914 she lived in Paris with her brother Leo, an art critic. During this period, Gertrude determined that she was a writer. Her earliest writings focused on retellings of her college experiences. A turning point, was in her critically acclaimed "Three Lives."

  • Q.E.D. (written, 1903)

Gertrude completed Q.E.D. (Quod Erat Demonstrandum) on October 24, 1903. (Ibid., pp. 53-58). This piece is more fully discussed later in this article at Relationship with Alice B. Toklas and its precursors

  • Fernhurst (written, 1904)

In 1904 Stein began this fictional account of a scandalous triangular affair involving a dean (M. Carey Thomas) and a faculty member (Mary Gwinn) from Bryn Mawr College and a Harvard graduate (Alfred Hodder). (Mellow, 1974, pp. 65-68). Mellow asserts that Fernhurst "is a decidedly minor and awkward piece of writing." (Ibid, p. 67). It contains some commentary that suggests Gertrude included in her autobiography when she discussed the "fateful twenty-ninth year" (ibid.) during which:

all the forces that have been engaged through the years of childhood, adolescence and youth in confused and ferocious combat range themselves in ordered ranks (and during which) the straight and narrow gateway of maturity, and life which was all uproar and confusion narrows down to form and purpose, and we exchange a great dim possibility for a small hard reality.


Also in our American life where there is no coercion in custom and it is our right to change our vocation so often as we have desire and opportunity, it is a common experience that our youth extends through the whole first twenty-nine years of our life and it is not till we reach thirty that we find at last that vocation for which we feel ourselves fit and to which we willingly devote continued labor. (Ibid, p. 67-68)

Mellow observes that, in 1904, 30-year-old Gertrude "had evidently determined that the 'small hard reality' of her life would be writing". (Ibid., p. 68)

  • Three Lives (written, 1905-06)

Among the paintings was a portrait of Madame Cézanne which provided Gertrude with inspiration as she began to write, and which she credited with her evolving writing style illustrated in her early work, Three Lives:

Gertrude claimed that the stylistic method of (Three Lives) had been influenced by the Cézanne portrait under which she sat writing. The portrait of Madame Cézanne is one of the monumental examples of the artist's method, each exacting, carefully negotiated plane--from the suave reds of the armchair and the gray blues of the sitter's jacket to the vaguely figured wallpaper of the background--having been structured into existence, seeming to fix the subject for all eternity. So it was with Gertrude's repetitive sentences, each one building up, phrase by phrase, the substance of her characters. (Mellow, 1974, p. 71). (Portrait of Madame Cézanne facing Gertrude's work table).

She began Three Lives in the spring of 1905, and she finished it the following year. (Mellow, 1974, p. 77).

  • The Making of Americans (written, 1906-08)

Gertrude Stein fixed the date for her writing of The Making of Americans from 1906-1908. Her biographer has uncovered evidence that it began in 1902 and did not end until 1911. (Mellow, 1974, p. 114-22). Stein compared her work to James Joyce's Ulysses and to Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Her critics were less enthusiastic about its place in the canon of great literature. (Ibid., p. 122).

Gertrude's Matisse and Picasso word portraits appeared in Alfred Stieglitz's August 1912 edition of Camera Work, a special edition devoted to Picasso and Matisse, and represented her very first publication (Kellner, 1988, p. 266). Of this publication, Gertrude said, "[h]e was the first one that ever printed anything that I had done. And you can imagine what that meant to me or to any one." (Ibid.)

  • Word Portraits (written, 1908-1913)

Gertrude's word portraits apparently began with her portrait of Alice B. Toklas, "a little prose vignette, a kind of happy inspiration that had detached itself from the torrential prose of The Making of Americans". (Mellow, 1974, p. 129). Gertrude's early efforts at word portraits are catalogued in Mellow, 1974, p. 129-37 and under individual's names in Kellner, 1988. Matisse and Picasso were subjects of early portraits (Mellow, 1974, 154-55, 157-58), later collected and published in Geography and Plays (published 1922) and Portraits and Prayers (published 1934). (Kellner, 1988, pp. 34-35 and 56-57). The Matisse and Picasso portraits were reprinted in MoMA, 1970, pp. 99-102.

Her subjects included many ultimately famous personages, and her subjects provided an inside view of what she observed in her Saturday salons at 27 Rue de Fleurus: "Ada" (Alice B. Toklas), "Two Women" (The Cone Sisters) (Claribel Cone and Etta Cone), Miss Furr and Miss Skeene (Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire), "Men" (Hutchins Hapgood, Peter David Edstrom, Maurice Sterne), "Matisse" (1909) (Henri Matisse), "Picasso" (1909) (Pablo Picasso), "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia" (1911) (Mabel Dodge Luhan), and "Guillaume Apollinaire" (1913).

  • Tender Buttons (written, 1912)

Tender Buttons is the best known of Gertrude Stein's hermetic works. It is a small book separated into three sections - Food, Objects and Rooms each containing prose under subtitles. (Kellner, 1988, p. 61-62). Its publication in 1914 created a rift between Mabel Dodge Luhan and Gertrude, because Mabel had been working to place it with another publisher. (Mellow, 1974, p. 178). Mabel wrote at length about the bad choice in publishing it with the press Gertrude selected. (Ibid.) Evans wrote Gertrude:

Claire Marie Press ... is absolutely third rate, & in bad odor here, being called for the most part 'decadent" and Broadwayish and that sort of thing. . . . I think it would be a pity to publish with [Claire Marie Press] if it will emphasize the idea in the opinion of the public, that there is something degenerate & effete & decadent about the whole of the cubist movement which they all connect you with, because, hang it all, as long as they don't understand a thing they think all sorts of things. My feeling in this is quite strong.

(Ibid.) Gertrude ignored Mabel's exhortations, and eventually Mabel, and published 1,000 copies of the book, in 1914. (An antiquarian copy was valued at over $1,200 in 2007). It is currently in print.

Stein's poems in Tender Buttons are highly stylised and hermetic, as she made preference for sound over sense.

Alice B. Toklas, 1907-1946

Stein met her lifelong partner, Alice B. Toklas[26] [10], on September 8, 1907 on Alice's first day in Paris, at Sarah and Michael Stein's apartment. (Mellow, 1974, at 107) On meeting Stein, Toklas wrote:

She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair. She was dressed in a warm brown corduroy suit. She wore a large round coral brooch and when she talked, very little, or laughed, a good deal, I thought her voice came from this brooch. It was unlike anyone else's voice--deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto's, like two voices.[27][28]

Shortly thereafter, Gertrude introduced Alice to Pablo Picasso at his studio, where he was at work on Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was a painting that "marked the beginning of the end of Leo's support for Picasso."[29]

In 1908, they summered in Fiesole, Italy, Alice staying with Harriet Lane Levy, her companion on her trip from the United States, and her housemate until Alice moved in with Gertrude and Leo in 1910. That summer, Gertrude stayed with Michael & Sarah Stein, their son Allan, and Leo in a nearby villa. (Ibid.) Gertrude and Alice's summer of 1908 is memorialized in images of the two of them[11] [12] in Venice, at the piazza in front of Saint Mark's.[30]

Alice arrived in 1907 with Harriet Levy, with Alice maintaining living arrangements with Harriet until Alice moved to 27 Rue de Fleurus in 1910. In a portrait written at the time, Gertrude humorously discussed the complex efforts, involving much letter writing and Victorian niceties, to extricate Harriet from Alice's living arrangements.[31] In "Harriet", Gertrude considers Harriet's nonexistent plans for the summer, following her nonexistent plans for the winter:

She said she did not have any plans for the summer. No one was interested in this thing in whether she had any plans for the summer. That is not the complete history of this thing, some were interested in this thing in her not having any plans for the summer..... Some who were not interested in her not having made plans for the summer were interested in her not having made plans for the following winter. She had not made plans for the summer and she had not made plans for the following winter.... There was then coming to be the end of the summer and she was then not answering anything when any one asked her what were her plans for the winter.[32]

World War I

Juan Gris

In the early summer of 1914, Gertrude bought three paintings by Juan Gris: Roses (Beinecke photograph), Glass and Bottle, and Book and Glasses. Shortly after she purchased them from Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler's gallery (Mellow, 1974, at 209), the war broke out, Kahnweiler's stock was confiscated and he was not allowed to return to Paris. Gris, who before the war had entered a binding contract with Kahnweiler for his output, was left without income. Gertrude attempted to enter an ancillary arrangement in which she would forward Gris living expenses in exchange for future pictures.

Great Britain

Gertrude and Alice had plans to visit England to sign a contract for the publication of Three Lives, to spend a few weeks, and journey on to Spain. They left Paris on July 6, 1914 and returned on October 17. [Ibid., 210-15]. When Britain declared war on Germany in World War I, Stein and Toklas were visiting Alfred North Whitehead in England. After a three-week trip to England that stretched into three months with the onset of the War, they returned to France, where they spent the first winter of the war.

Majorca, Spain

With money acquired from the sale of Gertrude's last Matisse Woman with a Hat[33] to her brother Michael, Gertrude and Alice vacationed in Spain from May 1915, through the spring of 1916.[34] During their interlude in Majorca, Spain, Gertrude continued her correspondence with Mildred Aldrich who kept her apprised of the War's progression, and eventually inspired Gertrude and Alice to return to France to join the war effort.[35]


Alice and Gertrude returned to Paris in June 1916 and acquired a Ford with the help of connections in the United States; Gertrude learned to drive it with the help of her friend William Edwards Cook. (Ibid., at 226-27). Gertrude and Alice then volunteered to drive supplies to French hospitals, in the Ford they named Auntie, "after Gertrude's aunt Pauline, 'who always behaved admirably in emergencies and behaved fairly well most times if she was flattered.'" (Ibid., at 228) (image of Auntie with Gertrude and Alice).


In the 1920s, her salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus, with walls covered by avant-garde paintings, attracted many of the great writers of the time, including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson. While she has been credited with coining the term "Lost Generation" for some of these expatriate American writers, at least three versions of the story that led to the phrase are on record, two by Ernest Hemingway and one by Gertrude Stein (Mellow, 1974, pp. 273-74). During the 20s, she became friends with writer Mina Loy, and the two would remain lifelong friends. Extremely charming, eloquent, and cheerful, she had a large circle of friends and tirelessly promoted herself. Her judgments in literature and art were highly influential. She was Ernest Hemingway's mentor, and upon the birth of his son he asked her to be the godmother of his child. In the summer of 1931, Stein advised the young composer and writer Paul Bowles to go to Tangier, where she and Alice had vacationed.


In the 1930s, Gertrude and Alice became famous with the 1933 mass market publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. She and Alice took an extended lecture tour in the United States during this decade. They also spent many summers in Bilignin, France, and doted on a famous poodle named "Basket" whose successor, "Basket II", comforted Alice in the years after Gertrude's death.

World War II

Prior to World War II she made public her opinion that Adolf Hitler should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. "I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all the elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace ... By suppressing Jews ... he was ending struggle in Germany" (New York Times Magazine, May 6, 1934). Stein was later to comment on Hitler, Mussolini, and Roosevelt: "There is too much fathering going on just now and there is no doubt about it fathers are depressing" (Blackmer 1995).

With the outbreak of World War II, Stein and Toklas moved to a country home that they had rented for many years previously in Bilignin, Ain, in the Rhône-Alpes region. Referred to only as "Americans" by their neighbors, Gertrude and Alice, who were both Jewish, escaped persecution probably because of their friendship to Bernard Faÿ who was a collaborator with the Vichy regime and had connections to the Gestapo. When Faÿ was sentenced to hard labor for life after the war, Gertrude and Alice campaigned for his release. Several years later, Alice would contribute money to Faÿ's escape from prison.


After the war, Gertrude's status in Paris grew when she was visited by many young American soldiers.

The preface of the exhibition for Riba-Rovira in Paris, written in 1945, "is one of Gertrude Stein's last texts" on its vision of the painting art, approximately one year before its death. She expresses her sights on Picasso, Cezanne, Riba-Rovira, Matisse, Juan Gris just before her death. So we have her last view on "the Painting School of Paris" through Francisco Riba-Rovira, a familiar artist of her "artists salon" at "rue de Fleurus" and she also possessed pictures among which one at least would have appeared on the wall of its lounge.[36] .

The following document is a translation from Stein's preface to an exhibition by Riba-Rovira at Roquepine Gallery in May 1945 :

It is inevitable that when we really need someone we find him. The person you need attracts you like a magnet. I returned to Paris, after these long years spent in the countryside and I needed a young painter, a young painter who would awaken me. Paris was magnificent, but where was the young painter?I looked everywhere:at my contemporaries and their followers. I walked a lot, I looked everywhere, in all the galleries , but the young painter was not there. Yes, I walk a lot, a lot at the edge of the Seine where we fish, where we paint, where we walk dogs ( I am of those who walk their dogs).Not a single young painter! One day, on the corner of a street, in one of these small streets in my district, I saw a man painting .I looked at him; at him and at his painting, as I always look at everybody who creates something _I have an indefatigable curiosity to look_ and I was moved .Yes, a young painter! We began to speak, because we speak easily, as easily as in country roads, in the small streets of the district . His story was the sad story of the young people of our time .A young Spaniard who studied in fine arts in Barcelona: civil war; exile; a concentration camp;escape .Gestapo, another prison, another escape... Eight lost years! If they were lost, who knows? And now a little misery, but all the same the painting. Why did I find that it was him the young painter, why? I visited his drawings, his painting :we speak . I explained that for me, all modern painting is based on what Cézanne nearly made, instead of basing itself on what he almost managed to make. When he could not make a thing, he hijacked it and left it .He insisted on showing his incapacity:he spread his lack of success :showing what he could not do, became an obsession for him .People influenced by him were also obsessed by the things which they could not reach and they began the system of camouflage.It was natural to do so, even inevitable:that soon became an art, in peace and in war, and Matisse concealed and insisted at the same time on that Cézanne could not realize, and Picasso concealed, played and tormented all these things. The only one who wanted to insist on this problem, was Juan Gris. He persisted by deepening the things which Cézanne wanted to do, but it was too hard a task for him :it killed him. And now here we are, I find a young painter who does not follow the tendency to play with what Cézanne could not do, but who attacks any right the things which he tried to make ,to create the objects which have to exist ,for ,and in themselves ,and not in relation . This young painter has his weakness and his strength .His force will push him in this road .I am fascinated and that is why he is the young painter whose I needed. It is François(Francisco)Riba-Rovira.[37]

Stein died at the age of 72 from stomach cancer in Neuilly-sur-Seine on July 27, 1946, and was interred in Paris in the Père Lachaise cemetery.

In one account by Toklas, when Stein was being wheeled into the operating room for surgery on her stomach, she asked Toklas, "What is the answer?" When Toklas did not answer, Stein said, "In that case, what is the question?"[38]

Stein named writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten as her literary executor, and he helped to usher into print works of hers which remained unpublished at the time of her death. A monument to Stein stands on the Upper Terrace of Bryant Park, New York.

Relationship with Alice B. Toklas, and its precursors

Stein is the author of one of the earliest coming out stories, Q.E.D. (published in 1950 as Things as They Are), written in 1903 and suppressed by the author. The story, written during travels after dropping out, is based on a love triangle she joined while studying at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The triangle was complicated in that Stein was less experienced with the closeted social dynamics of romantic friendship as well as her own sexuality and any moral dilemmas regarding it. Stein maintained at the time that she detested "passion in its many disguised forms". The relationships of Stein's acquaintances Mabel Haynes and Grace Lounsbury ended as Haynes started one with Mary Bookstaver (also known as May Bookstaver). Stein fell in love with Bookstaver but was unsuccessful in advancing their relationship. Bookstaver, Haynes, and Lounsbury all later married men. (Blackmer 1995, p. 681-686)

Her growing awareness of her sexuality began to interfere with the bourgeois values implicit in her medical studies[citation needed] and would have put her at odds with contemporary feminist theory and opinion[citation needed], and Q.E.D. may have assisted her with understanding her scholarly and romantic failure. However, Stein began to accept and define her masculinity through the ideas of Otto Weininger's Sex and Character (1906). Weininger, though Jewish by birth, considered Jewish men effeminate and women as incapable of selfhood and genius, except for female homosexuals who may approximate masculinity. (ibid)

More positive affirmations of Stein's sexuality and gender began with her relationship with Toklas. Ernest Hemingway describes how Alice was Gertrude's "wife" in that Stein rarely addressed his (Hemingway's) wife, and he treated Alice the same, leaving the two "wives" to chat.(Grahn 1989) Alice was 4'11" tall, and Gertrude was 5'1"[citation needed].

The more affirming portrait "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" is one of the first coming out stories to be published. The piece, like Q.E.D., is informed by Stein's growing involvement with a gay and lesbian community (Grahn 1989) though it is based on lesbian partners Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars (Blackmer 1995). The piece contains the word "gay" over one hundred times, perhaps the first published use of the word "gay" in reference to same-sex relationships and those who have them, (Blackmer 1995) and as such uninformed readers missed any lesbian content. A similar portrait of gay men begins more obviously with the line "Sometimes men are kissing" but is less well known. (ibid)

In Tender Buttons Stein comments on lesbian sexuality and the work abounds with "highly condensed layers of public and private meanings" created by wordplay including puns on "box", "cow", and in titles such as "tender buttons". (ibid)

Political views

Politically, Stein unambiguously leaned to the right, though the extent of her right-wing views is debated. According to Janet Malcolm's Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, Stein was a life-long Republican and vocal critic of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. [39][40][41] She openly supported Franco in the Spanish Civil War and admired Vichy leader Maréchal Pétain, translating some of the latter's speeches into English. These unpublished translations included a favorable introduction in which she compared him to George Washington. [42] Some have argued for a more nuanced view of Stein's collaborationist activity, arguing that it was rooted in her wartime predicament and status as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France.[43]

The paintings on the wall

n.d.--before 1912 est. 1912--books and paintings 1913--est. 1913 1913--est. 1913 1913--est. 1913 1913--est. 1913 1913--est. 1913 (Young Girl with Basket of Flowers fades, as pictures at right come into focus 1914--undated, but likely after 1914 1920--behind writer 1922--flanking fireplace n.d.--1922 est.

Gertrude Stein

1906--Pablo Picasso, painting; 1907--Felix Vallotton, painting; 1912--Michael Brenner, sculpture; 1913--Alvin Langdon Coburn, photograph; photograph; 1916--Marsden Hartley, painting, One Portrait of One Woman; 1920--Jacques Lipchitz, sculpture; 1923--Man Ray, photograph (with Alice B. Toklas); photograph (with Joe Davidson); 1923--Jo Davidson, sculpture, photo of Jo Davidson sculpture by Dewitt Ward; 1927--Man Ray, photograph; 1928--Christian Berard, drawing, drawing; 1929--Eugene Berman, Portrait of Gertrude Stein at Bilignin, pen and ink (Mellow, 1974, image insert pp. 340-41); 1930--Pavel Tchelitchew, brush and black ink drawing; 1930's? (n.d.)--Antoinette Champetier De Ribes, sculpture; 1931--George Platt Lynes, photograph; photograph; 1933--Francis Picabia, painting; photograph of painting (Beinecke Library); 1934/1963--Carl Van Vechten 1963 photograph, of a 1963 painting by Richard Banks (artist), of a 1934 photograph by Carl Van Vechten; 1934--Samuel Johnson Woolf, drawing for October 27, 1934 Newsweek; 1935--Pierre Tal-Coat, two known paintings, not on internet; 1935--Imogen Cunningham, photograph; 1938--Cecil Beaton, photograph; photograph; 1945--Francesco Riba-Rovira, painting (referenced in Kellner, 1988, p. 242); 1975--Red Grooms, multi-media; 1980--Andy Warhol, painting; 1991--Faith Ringgold, quilt / large version of Ringgold quilt from Art In Context.


Welcome to 27 Rue de Fleurus; with Godiva and Alice B. Toklas; passport photos; passport photos; with Alice; with Alice; with Alice and Basket at Bilignin; with Alice (studio portrait); Moving Forward; War's End; MoMA Installation of Picasso Portrait.

Hobhouse, 1975; Kellner, 1988; Mellow, 1974; Stendhal, 1994 (image dating and source authors).

About Stein's Writings

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1934

Stein's writing appears on three different planes: her hermetic works that have gone largely unread, as best illustrated by Stein's The Making of Americans: The Hersland Family; her popularized writing in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas which made her famous; and her speech writing and more accessible autobiographical writing of later years, of which Brewsie and Willie is a good example.

After moving to Paris in 1903, she started to write in earnest: novels, plays, stories, libretti and poems. Increasingly, she developed her own highly idiosyncratic, playful, sometimes repetitive and sometimes humorous style. Typical quotes are: "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose"; "Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle"; about Oakland, "There is no there there"; and "The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable."

These stream-of-consciousness experiments, rhythmical word-paintings or "portraits", were designed to evoke "the excitingness of pure being" and can be seen as an answer to Cubism, plasticity and/or collage, in literature. Many of the experimental works such as Tender Buttons have since been interpreted by critics as a feminist reworking of patriarchal language. These works were loved by the avant-garde, but mainstream success initially remained elusive. Despite Stein's work on automatic writing with William James it is clear Stein did not see her own work as automatic, more as a 'excess of consciousness'.

Judy Grahn lists the following principles behind Stein's work: 1) Commonality, 2) Essence, 3) Value, 4) Grounding the Continuous present, 5) Play, and 6) Transformation

Though Gertrude collected cubist paintings (primarily by Picasso until she could no longer afford them), the biggest visual or painterly influence on Stein's work is that of Cézanne, specifically in her idea of equality, what Judy Grahn calls commonality, distinguishing from universality or equality: "the whole field of the canvas is important" (p. 8). Rather than a figure/ground relationship, "Stein in her work with words used the entire text as a field in which every element mattered as much as any other." It is a subjective relationship that includes more than one viewpoint, to quote Stein: "The important thing is that you must have deep down as the deepest thing in you a sense of equality."

Grahn ascribes much of the repetition of Stein's work to her search for descriptions of the "bottom nature" of her characters, such as in The Making of Americans where even the narrator's essence is described through the repetition of narrative phrases such as "As I was saying" and "There will be now a history of her". Grahn: "Using the idea of everything belonging to a whole field and mattering equally, as well as each being having an essence of its own, she inevitably wrote patterns rather than linear sequences." (p. 13)

Grahn means value in the sense of overall lightness or darkness of a painting. Stein used many Anglo-Saxon words and few Latin-based words: blood instead of sanguine. She also avoided words with "too much association". "One consequence of developing value and essence as the basis of her work, rather than social themes, dramatic imagery or linear plots, is that she developed a remarkable objective voice. To an uncanny degree at times, social judgement is absent in her author's voice, as the reader is left the power to decide how to think and feel about the writing." Grahn continues, "Anxiety, fear and anger are not played upon, and this alone sets her apart from most modern authors. Her work is harmonic and integrative, not alienated; at the same time it is grounded useful, not wistful and fantastic." (p. 15)

Stein predominantly used the present tense, "ing", creating a continuous present in her work, which Grahn argues is a consequence of the previous principles, especially commonality and centeredness. Grahn describes play as the granting of autonomy and agency to the readers or audience, "rather than the emotional manipulation that is a characteristic of linear writing, Stein uses play." (p. 18) In addition Stein's work is funny, and multilayered, allowing a variety of interpretations and engagements. Lastly Grahn argues that one must "insterstand ... engage with the work, to mix with it in an active engagement, rather than 'figuring it out.' Figure it in." (p. 21)

Gertrude Stein wrote in longhand, typically about half an hour per day. Alice B. Toklas would collect the pages, type them up and deal with the publishing and was generally supportive while Leo Stein publicly criticized his sister's work. Indeed, Toklas founded the publisher "Plain Editions" to distribute Stein's work. Today, most manuscripts are kept in the Beinecke Library at Yale University.[44]

In 1932, using an accessible style to accommodate the ordinary reading public, she wrote The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; the book would become her first best-seller. Despite the title, it was really her own autobiography. She described herself as extremely confident, one might even say arrogant, always convinced that she was a genius. She was disdainful of mundane tasks and Alice Toklas managed everyday affairs.

The style of the autobiography was quite similar to that of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was actually written by Alice and contains several unusual recipes such as one for Hashish Fudge (also called Alice B. Toklas brownies), submitted by Brion Gysin.

Several of Stein's writings have been set by composers, including Virgil Thomson's operas Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All, and James Tenney's skillful if short setting of Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose as a canon dedicated to Philip Corner, beginning with "a" on an upbeat and continuing so that each repetition shuffles the words, eg. "a/rose is a rose/is a rose is/a rose is a/rose."


Sherwood Anderson in his public introduction to Stein's 1922 publication of Geography and Plays wrote:

For me the work of Gertrude Stein consists in a rebuilding, an entirely new recasting of life, in the city of words. Here is one artist who has been able to accept ridicule, who has even forgone the privilege of writing the great American novel, uplifting our English speaking stage, and wearing the bays of the great poets to go live among the little housekeeping words, the swaggering bullying street-corner words, the honest working, money saving words and all the other forgotten and neglected citizens of the sacred and half forgotten city.

In a private letter to his brother Karl, Anderson said,

As for Stein, I do not think her too important. I do think she had an important thing to do, not for the public, but for the artist who happens to work with words as his material.

(Mellow, 1974 at p. 260)

F. W. Dupee (1990, p. IX) defines "Steinese" as "gnomic, repetitive, illogical, sparsely puncutated...a scandal and a delight, lending itself equally to derisory parody and fierce denunciation.

Though Stein influenced authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright, as hinted above, her work has often been misunderstood. Composer Constant Lambert (1936) naively compares Stravinsky's choice of "the drabbest and least significant phrases" in L'Histoire du Soldat to Gertrude Stein's in "Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene" (1922), specifically: "[E]veryday they were gay there, they were regularly gay there everyday", of which he contends that the "effect would be equally appreciated by someone with no knowledge of English whatsoever", apparently entirely missing the pun frequently employed by Stein.

James Thurber ridicules Stein saying that,

Anyone who reads at all diversely during these bizarre 1920s cannot escape the conclusion that a number of crazy men and women are writing stuff which remarkably passes for important composition among certain persons who should know better. Stuart P. Sherman, however, refused to be numbered among those who stand in awe and admiration of one of the most eminent of the idiots, Gertrude Stein. He reviews her Geography and Plays in the August 11 issue of the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post and arrives at the conviction that it is a marvellous and painstaking achievement in setting down approximately 80,000 words which mean nothing at all.

(From Collecting Himself, Michael Rosen, ed.)


  • "I do want to get rich, but I never want to do what there is to do to get rich."
  • "A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears".
  • "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense".
  • "Hemingway, remarks are not literature".
  • "I've been rich and I've been poor. It's better to be rich".
  • "America is my country, but Paris is my hometown".
  • "You are all a lost generation".
  • "It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for the future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true".
  • "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose".
  • "To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write".
  • "Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle".
  • "There is no there there." [re: Oakland, CA]
  • "I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences."
  • "I have made it [white electric light] but have I a soul to pay for it."
  • "Affectations can be dangerous."
  • "Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really very frightening."
  • "If it can be done, why do it ?"
  • "It is natural to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes to that siren until she allures us to our death."


  • In March 2008, a new musical entitled "27, rue de Fleurus" by Ted Sod and Lisa Koch, which is told from the perspective of Alice B. Toklas and featuring Gertrude Stein, will premiere at Urban Stages in NYC
  • The Lynne Truss book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, makes several references to Stein's writings, specifically Stein's vendetta against most punctuation.
  • In 2005, playwright/actor Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed Stein in the solo musical ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 1 at Princeton University.
  • In the 2006 motion picture The Devil Wears Prada, the character Christian Thompson, played by Simon Baker, attributes the statement "America is my country, but Paris is my hometown" to Gertrude Stein.
  • Chuck Coleman, jazz-pop singer/songwriter, sings about Stein in the track "Me And Gertrude Stein" from his album, "People, Places, and Flings."
  • Scottish rock band Idlewild released a single called Roseability in 2000 from the album 100 Broken Windows. This is apparently a reference to Stein's observation that "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose". The song also contains the refrain, "Gertrude Stein says that's enough."
  • The phrase 'a rose is a rose...' appears in the musical 'Singing in the Rain', when Gene Kelly is receiving elocution lessons to allow him to move from silent films to talkies. He sings it with Donald O'Connor.
  • In an episode of The X-Files called "Bad Blood", the character Fox Mulder, played by David Duchovny, warns his partner, Dana Scully, played by Gillian Anderson, that if she goes to prison, "your cellmate's nickname is gonna be Large Marge, she's gonna read a lot of Gertrude Stein."
  • In "La Vie Boheme", a song from the musical Rent, a toast is made to Gertrude Stein.
  • The Elephant 6 band Olivia Tremor Control mentions Stein in their song "Define a Transparent Dream".
  • In Anastasia (1997 film), Gertrude Stein is seen in a car singing "Where a rose is a rose!" during a musical number, "Paris Holds The Key to Your Heart".
  • In The Rutles' song "Another Day", a reference to her is made: "A glass of wine with Gertrude Stein,/I know I'll never share,/but I don't mind. That's just the kind/of cross each man must bear./I'm on my way,/I cannot stay another day."
  • In the Marvel comic Runaways (comic),one character is named Gertrude Yorkes while her boyfriend's name is Chase Stein.
  • Loving Repeating is a musical by Stephen Flaherty based on the writings of Gertrude Stein and is unified through a 1934 speech that Stein delivered at the University of Chicago. Stein and Alice B. Toklas are both characters in the eight person show.
  • In the Swedish film "The Adventures of Picasso" ("Picassos Äventyr") Bernard Cribbins plays a hilarious Gertrude Stein, who among other things dresses up as a pirate in a masquerade held by Henry Rousseau, almost cutting the head of Picasso with her sword, by accident. Wilfrid Brambell plays Alice B Toklas.
  • In Mame, a stage and film musical, the character Vera Charles declares in the song lyrics of "Bosom Buddies", "... but sweetie, I'll always be Alice Toklas if you'll be Gertrude Stein."
  • In the movie "Corrina, Corrina", Whoopi Goldberg quotes Gertrude Stein with "There is no there there", though she (Goldberg) is referring to a romantic relationship while Stein was describing the search for her childhood home in Oakland, California.
  • The artist Poe, wrote the song "A Rose is A Rose" for the album Lounge-a-palooza, and makes several references to Gertrude Stein and lesbian sexuality.
  • The band Le Tigre reference Gertrude Stein in their song "Hot Topic" from their 1999 self-titled album.
  • The band The Butchies include a song named Gertrude + Stein on their album Population 1975.
  • The Wilde Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity, one of the first LGBT student organizations in the United States, is named in part after Gertrude Stein.
  • The cartoon series "Animaniacs" references Gertrude Stein in the episode entitled "Baloney & Kids." The Warners are forced to make faces on paper plates, Dot Warner choosing to make a charicature of Gertrude Stein.
  • The film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas is a 1968 comedy film starring Peter Sellers. It featured a song of the same title by Harpers Bizarre.


Selected Works

  • Three Lives (The Grafton Press, 1909)
  • White Wines, (1913)
  • Tender buttons: objects, food, rooms (1914) online version
  • An Exercise in Analysis (1917)
  • A Circular Play (1920)
  • Geography and Plays (1922)
  • The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family's Progress (written 1906-1908, published 1925)
  • Four Saints in Three Acts (libretto, 1929: music by Virgil Thomson, 1934)
  • Useful Knowledge (1929)
  • How to Write (1931)
  • They must. Be Wedded. To Their Wife (1931)
  • Operas and Plays (1932)
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933)
  • Lectures in America (1935)
  • The Geographical History of America or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind (1936)
  • Everybody's Autobiography (1937)
  • Picasso (1938)
  • Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938)
  • Paris France (1940)
  • Ida: A Novel (1941)
  • Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters (1943)
  • Wars I Have Seen (1945)
  • Reflections on the Atom Bomb (1946) online version
  • Brewsie and Willie (1946)
  • The Mother of Us All (libretto, 1946: music by Virgil Thompson 1947)
  • Last Operas and Plays (1949)
  • The Things as They Are (written as Q.E.D. in 1903, published 1950)
  • Patriarchal Poetry (1953)
  • Alphabets and Birthdays (1957)

Primary sources

  • "A LA RECHERCHE D'UN JEUNE PEINTRE" Gertrude Stein /Yale University/U.S.A. "Looking for a young paintor" (Riba-Rovira)
  • Burns, Edward, ed., Gertrude Stein on Picasso (New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 1970). ISBN 087140513x
  • ---. The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Carl Van Vechten, 1913-1946, 2 v. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). ISBN 0231063083, ISBN 978-0231063081
  • ---. The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder, co-ed. with Ulla Dydo (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). ISBN 9780300067743
  • ---. Staying on Alone: Letters of Alice B. Toklas (New York: Liveright, 1973). ISBN 0871405695
  • Chessman, Harriet and Stimpson, Catharine R., eds. Gertrude Stein, Writings 1903-1932 (Library of America, 1998). ISBN 978-1-88301140-6
  • ---. Gertrude Stein, Writings 1932-1946 (Library of America, 1998). ISBN 978-1-88301141-3
  • Grahn, Judy, ed. Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with Essays by Judy Grahn (Crossing Press, 1989). ISBN 0895943808
  • Stein, Gertrude. 1922. Geography and Plays. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1999. ISBN 048640874
  • ---. 1932. Operas and Plays. Barrytown NY: Station Hill Arts, 1998. ISBN 1886449163
  • ---. 1934. Portraits and Prayers. New York: Random House, 1934. ISBN 9781135761981 ISBN 113576198
  • ---. 1946. Gertrude Stein on Picasso (London, B.T. Batsford, Ltd. (1946) ISBN 978-0871405135, ISBN 087140513X
  • ---. 1949. Last Operas and Plays. Ed. Carl van Vechten. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1995. ISBN 0801849853
  • Vechten, Carl Van, ed. (1990). Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. ISBN 0679724648

Secondary sources

  • Behrens, Roy R. COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier. Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, 2005; ISBN 0-9713244-1-7.
  • Blackmer, Corrine E. "Gertrude Stein" in Summers, Claude J. (1995). The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage. ISBN 0805050094.
  • Bowers, Jane Palatini. 1991. "They Watch Me as They Watch This":Gertrude Stein's Metadrama. Philadelphia: University of Pennstlvania Press. ISBN 0812230574.
  • Dean, Gabrielle. "Grid Games: Gertrude Stein's Diagrams and Detectives" in Modernism/modernity 15:2 [13] April 2008), 317-41.
  • Grahn, Judy (1989). Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with essays by Judy Grahn. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press. ISBN 0-89594-380-8.
  • Hobhouse, Janet. Everybody Who Was Anybody: A Biography of Gertrude Stein New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1975. ISBN 9781199832993.
  • Kellner, Bruce, ed. A Gertrude Stein Companion: Content with the Example. New York, Westport, Connecticut, London: Greenwood Press, 1988. ISBN 0313250782.
  • Malcolm, Janet. Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, London: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 9780300125511
  • Malcom, Janet. Gertrude Stein's War, The New Yorker, June 2, 2003, p. 58-81
  • ---. Strangers in Paradise, The New Yorker, November 13, 2006, p. 54-61.
  • Mellow, James R. Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company. New York, Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1974. ISBN 0395479827
  • Perelman, Bob. The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.
  • Rosenbaum, Fred, "San Francisco-Oakland: The Native Son", in Brinner, William M. & Rischin, Moses. Like All the Nations?: The Life and Legacy of Judah L. Magnes, State University of New York Press, 1987. ISBN 0887065074
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Four Americans in Paris: The Collections of Gertrude Stein and Her Family. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1970. ISBN 078100674.
  • Ryan, Betsy Alayne. 1984. Gertrude Stein's Theatre of the Absolute. Theater and Dramatic Studies Ser., 21. Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press. ISBN 0835720217.
  • Renate Stendhal, ed., Gertrude Stein In Words and Pictures: A Photobiography. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1989. ISBN 0945575998; ISBN 978-0945575993.
  • Truong, Monique. The book of salt, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. A novel about a young Vietnamese cook who worked in Stein's Montparnasse-household.

External links

  • A la recherche d'un jeune peintre" Gertrude Stein/Yale University/U.S.A."Looking for a young paintor"(Riba-Rovira)


Internal references

  1. ^ During most of her life, Gertrude lived on a trust income from funds her brother Michael very capably stewarded and invested. After their parents died, Michael handled the affairs of his four younger siblings, Gertrude the youngest, still in her teens.
  2. ^ Rosenbaum (1987), p. 21.
  3. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". David Bachrach House, Baltimore City. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-11-21. . (Bachrach had married Fanny Keyser, sister of Gertrude's mother Amelia, in 1877.)
  4. ^ "Has Gertrude Stein a Secret?" Cumulative Record, 3rd ed. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1972, 359-69.
  5. ^ Meyer, Steven. Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2001.
  6. ^ Carl Van Vechten (music critic for the New York Times and then drama critic for the New York Press), and Henry McBride (art critic for the New York Sun), did much to further Stein's American reputation. (Mellow, 1974, pp. 197, 192). Both had wide-circulation newspaper platforms in which they frequently offered Gertude's name to the public. Of the art collection at 27 Rue de Fleurus, McBride commented: "in proportion to its size and quality ... [it is] just about the most potent of any that I have ever heard of in history." (Ibid. p. 193). McBride also made the observation that Gertrude "collected geniuses rather than masterpieces. She recognized them a long way off." (Ibid.)
  7. ^ Another early catalyst to Gertrude Stein's fame was Mabel Dodge Luhan. In 1911 Mildred Aldrich introduced Gertrude to Mabel Dodge Luhan and they began a short-lived but fruitful friendship during which a wealthy and well-connected Mabel Dodge promoted Gertrude's name and legend in the United States. Mabel was enthusiastic about Gertrude's sprawling The Makings of Americans and, at a time when Gertrude had much difficulty selling her writing to publishers, privately published 300 copies of Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia, (ibid.) a copy of which was valued at $25,000 in 2007 (James S. Jaffee Rare Books). Dodge was also involved in the publicity and planning of the 69th Armory Show in 1913, "the first avant-garde art exhibition in America." (Ibid.) In addition, she wrote the first critical analysis of Gertrude's writing to appear in America, in "Speculations, or Post-Impressionists in Prose", published in a special March 1913 publication of Arts and Decoration. (Mellow, 1974, at 170). Foreshadowing Gertrude's later critical reception, Mabel wrote in "Speculations":
    In Gertrude Stein's writing every word lives and, apart from concept, it is so exquisitely rhythmical and cadenced that if we read it aloud and receive it as pure sound, it is like a kind of sensuous music. Just as one may stop, for once, in a way, before a canvas of Picasso, and, letting one's reason sleep for an instant, may exclaim: "It is a fine pattern!" so, listening to Gertrude Steins' words and forgetting to try to understand what they mean, one submits to their gradual charm.(Ibid)
    Mabel attributed the break in their friendship to an exchange in the autumn of 1912 when, over lunch, Gertrude sent her "such a good strong look over the table that it seemed to cut across the air to me in a band of electrified steel--a smile traveling across on it--powerful--Heavens!" (Kellner, 1988, pp. 220-21.) Alice interpreted the look as a flirtation and left the room (ibid., p. 222), prompting Gertrude to follow, and when Gertrude returned, she said, "[Alice] doesn't want to come lunch ... She feels the heat today." (Mellow, 1974, p. 180)
  8. ^ (Mellow, 1974, pp.43-52)
  9. ^ Gauguin's Sunflowers is visible online at The Hermitage Museum's web site.
  10. ^ Three Tahitians is on display, and on-line at the National Galleries of Scotland
  11. ^ The particular Cézanne's Bathers is in the Cone Collection, Baltimore holdings.
  12. ^ (Mellow, 1974, p.62)
  13. ^ (Gertrude seated near sculpture and Cézanne's Bathers (1903-04))The MoMA catalog dates photo at 1905 (MoMA, 1970, p. 53) and places Bathers (1895) in the Cone Collection, Baltimore
  14. ^ (MoMA, 1970, p.26) The Delacroix painting is now in the Cone Collection, Baltimore. (Dorothy Kosinski et al., Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, p. 38 (Yale Univ. Press 2007).
  15. ^ This painting is now at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  16. ^ Color plates of Young Girl with Basket of Flowers, or Jeune fille aux fleurs, appear in Hobhouse, 1975, at 68 and Burns, 1970, at 8. The painting is in a private collection, but was displayed in a 2003 Matisse/Picasso exhibit.
  17. ^ Museum of Modern Art, 1970, pp. 88-89 provides detailed black and white images of the paintings on the wall.
  18. ^ The first, the Paris Autumn Salon of 1905, introduced Fauvism to the Paris art public, to some shock and political cartooning. The second, the Armory Show of 1913, held in New York City, introduced Modern Art to the United States art public, accompanied by similar public disparagement.
  19. ^ The Steins holdings were eventually dispersed, by various methods and for various reasons, and over time.The Family Knew What It Liked.
  20. ^ (MoMA, 1970 at 28)
  21. ^ (Mellow, 1974, p. 84)
  22. ^ (Mellow, 1974, p. 94-95)
  23. ^ (Mellow, 1974, at 207-08). An image of "the Cézanne apples" appears in MoMA, 1970, Plate 19.
  24. ^ MoMA, 1970; The Collectors (about the Claribel and Etta Cone collection, with much on the Steins).
  25. ^ Portrait of Gertrude Stein Metropolitan Museum, Retrieved November 26, 2008
  26. ^ Alice's March 1967 obituary in the New York Times outlines some aspects of her relationship with Gertrude.
  27. ^ Mellow, 1974, at 107-08
  28. ^ Alice B. Toklas Books and Writers
  29. ^ Mellow, 1974, 109-14
  30. ^ Mellow 1974, 122
  31. ^ Mellow, 1974, 149-51
  32. ^ Portraits and Prayers, 1934, 105-07
  33. ^ Photo of Woman with a Hat, in situ, Yale Collection
  34. ^ Mellow, J. R. (1974) 218-26
  35. ^ Mellow, J. R. (1974) 225-26
  36. ^ Stein, Gertrude. A Gertrude Stein Companion: Content with the Example ed Bruce Kellner. New York: Westport. Connecticut, London: Greenwood Press (1988) p. 242 (ISBN 0313250782)
  37. ^ Stein, Gertrude."A LA RECHERCHE D'UN JEUNE PEINTRE" Yale University. "Looking for a young paintor" (Riba-Rovira).Fontaine revew n°42 Mai 1945 p.287-288 Gertrude Stein/Riba-Rovira,édition de Paris ,France
  38. ^ Someone Says Yes to It: Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and "The Making of the Americans"; Janet Malcolm; The New Yorker, June 13 & 20, 2005; p.148-165 see p.164 for another description that Toklas gave of Stein's last words: "What is the question and before I could speak she went on--If there is no question then there is no answer".
  39. ^ [1]
  40. ^ [2]
  41. ^ [3]
  42. ^ [4]
  43. ^ [5]
  44. ^ Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Retrieved on 2009-07-08.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I am writing for myself and strangers. This is the only way that I can do it. Everybody is a real one to me, everybody is like some one else too to me. No one of them that I know can want to know it and so I write for myself and strangers.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

Gertrude Stein (3 February 187427 July 1946) was an American expatriate writer, poet, feminist, and playwright, who lived most of her life in Europe. She is famous for her "flow-of-thought" and sometimes "cyclical" or "circular" manner of expressing things.



One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.
Before the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded.
It is awfully important to know what is and what is not your business.
I just tell you and though I dont sound like it I've got plenty of sense, there aint any answer, there aint going to be any answer, there never has been any answer, that’s the answer.
  • From the very nature of progress, all ages must be transitional. If they were not, the world would be at a stand-still and death would speedily ensue. It is one of the tamest of platitudes but it is always introduced by a flourish of trumpets.
    • "Form and Intelligibility," from The Radcliffe Manuscripts (1949); written in 1894 as an undergraduate at Radcliffe College
  • Argument is to me the air I breathe. Given any proposition, I cannot help believing the other side and defending it.
    • "Form and Intelligibility," from The Radcliffe Manuscripts (1949); written in 1895 as an undergraduate at Radcliffe College
  • The whole duty of man consists in being reasonable and just... I am reasonable because I know the difference between understanding and not understanding and I am just because I have no opinion about things I don’t understand.
    • Manuscript (1903), published in Q.E.D. Book 1, from Q.E.D., and Other Early Writings (1971)
  • A beauty is not suddenly in a circle. It comes with rapture. A great deal of beauty is rapture. A circle is a necessity. Otherwise you would see no one. We each have our circle.
    • "A Circular Play," from Last Operas and Plays (1949) [written in 1920]
  • It is always a mistake to be plain-spoken.
    • "As Eighty," from Bee Time Vine (1953, Yale University Press); written in 1923
  • No sense in no sense innocence of what of not and what of delight. In no sense innocence in no sense and what in delight and not, in no sense innocence in no sense no sense what, in no sense and delight, and in no sense and delight and not in no sense and delight and not, no sense in no sense innocence and delight.
    • "Are There Arithmetics" (28 May 1927) [written in 1923]
  • Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.
    • If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (1923). First published in Vanity Fair.
  • One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.
  • Before the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded.
    • This phrase was used as the title of a work published in 1931, but was originally used in Ch. LXII of A Novel of Thank You, written in 1925-1926, but not published until 1958 by the Yale University Press
  • All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation... You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death.
  • When I sleep I sleep and do not dream because it is as well that I am what I seem when I am in my bed and dream.
    • Before the Flowers of Friendship Faded Friendship Faded (1931)
  • Grammar little by little is not a thing. Which may gain.
    There. Make twenty-five be a woman. The meaning of that does not interest me. It is a complexion that interests that makes ridiculous because that does not make it something else. But it does make them which is again me.
    Make twenty-five be a woman. I do not lose it. The color is there. Do you see. Dependent entirely upon how one word follows another. Who knows how Howard likes hearing. I can do it so easily it always makes grammar but is it grammar. Forget grammar and think about potatoes. Grammar after all has to do with why they were presented.
    • How to Write (1931), Ch. 4: A Grammarian [Dover, 1975, ISBN 0-486-23144-5] p. 109
  • Let me listen to me and not to them
    May I be very well and happy
    May I be whichever they can thrive
    Or just may they not.
    They do not think not only only
    But always with prefer
    And therefore I like what is mine
    For which not only willing but willingly
    Because which it matters. They find it one in union.
    In union there is strength.
    • Stanzas in Meditation (1932) Stanza VII
  • It is awfully important to know what is and what is not your business.
    • "What Is English Literature?" (1935)
  • The deepest thing in any one is the conviction of the bad luck that follows boasting.
    • Mrs. Reynolds and Five Earlier Novelettes (1952) Pt. 1 (written 1940-1943)
  • All the world knows how to cry but not all the world knows how to sigh. Sighing is extra.
    • Mrs. Reynolds and Five Earlier Novelettes (1952) Pt. 1 (written 1940-1943)
  • I just tell you and though I dont sound like it I've got plenty of sense, there aint any answer, there aint going to be any answer, there never has been any answer, that’s the answer.
    • Brewsie and Willie (1946), Ch. 7
  • Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
    • Reflections on the Atom Bomb (1946)
  • We are always the same age inside.
    • As quoted in The American Treasury, 1455-1955 (1955) edited by Clifton Fadiman, p. 946
  • Do you know because I tell you so, or do you know, do you know.
    • Libretto for the opera The Mother Of Us All by Virgil Thomson (1947), from Last Operas and Plays (1949)
  • Ladies there is no neutral position for us to assume.
    • Libretto for the opera The Mother Of Us All by Virgil Thomson (1947), from Last Operas and Plays (1949)
  • Communists are people who fancied that they had an unhappy childhood.
    • Quoted by Thornton Wilder, interview (December 14-15, 1956) with Richard Goldstone, The Paris Review: Writers at Work, First Series (1958)
  • "What is the answer?" [ I was silent ] "In that case, what is the question?"
  • It bothers a lot of people, but like you said, it's nobody's business, it came from the Judeo-Christian ethos, especially Saint Paul the bastard, but he was complaining about youngsters who were not really that way, they did it for money, everybody suspects us or knows but nobody says anything about it.
    • Stein's comment about homosexuality and homophobia, from a conversation with Samuel Steward recounted in Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (1977)
  • A writer must always try to have a philosophy and he should also have a psychology and a philology and many other things. Without a philosophy and a psychology and all these various other things he is not really worthy of being called a writer. I agree with Kant and Schopenhauer and Plato and Spinoza and that is quite enough to be called a philosophy. But then of course a philosophy is not the same thing as a style.
  • Human nature, human nature acts as it acts when it is identified when there is an identity but it is not human nature that has anything to do with that it is that anybody is there where they are, it is that that has to do with identity, with government and propaganda with history with individualism and with communism but it has nothing nothing to do with the human mind ... because the human mind writes what there is and what has identity go to do with that ... nothing at all.
    • Quoted in Really Reading Gertrude Stein : A Selected Anthology with essays (1989) by Judy Grahn (Crossing Press ISBN 0-895-94380-8), p. 253
  • I've been rich and I've been poor. It's better to be rich.
    • As quoted in Red Rabbit : A novel (2002) by Tom Clancy, p. 153

Geography and Plays (1922)

They were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.
  • They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.
    • "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene"
    • This story about two lesbians, written in 1911, and published in Vanity Fair magazine in July 1923, is considered to be the origin of the use of the term "gay" for "homosexual", though it was not used in this sense in the story.
  • Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
    • "Sacred Emily"
    • This statement, written in 1913 and first published in Geography and Plays, is thought to have originally been inspired by the work of the artist Sir Francis Rose; a painting of his was in her Paris drawing-room.
    • See also the Wikipedia article: Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
    • Nigel Rees explains the phrase thus: "The poem 'Sacred Emily' by Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) is well-nigh impenetrable to the average reader but somehow it has managed to give a format phrase to the language. If something is incapable of explanation, one says, for example, 'a cloud is a cloud is a cloud.' What Stein wrote, however, is frequently misunderstood. She did not say 'A rose is a rose is a rose,' as she might well have done, but 'Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose' (i.e. no indefinite article at the start and three not two repetitions.) The Rose in question was not a flower but an allusion to the English painter, Sir Francis Rose, 'whom she and I regarded' wrote Constantine Fitzgibbon, 'as the peer of Matisse and Picasso, and whose paintings — or at least painting — hung in her Paris drawing-room while a Gauguin was relegated to the lavatory.'" - Sayings of the Century, page 91

The Making of Americans (1925)

Written 1903-1911
Disillusionment in living is finding that no one can really ever be agreeing with you completely in anything.
  • I am writing for myself and strangers. This is the only way that I can do it. Everybody is a real one to me, everybody is like some one else too to me. No one of them that I know can want to know it and so I write for myself and strangers.
  • There are many that I know and I know it. They are many that I know and they know it. They are all of them themselves and they repeat it and I hear it. Always I listen to it. Slowly I come to understand it. Many years I listened and did not know it. I heard it, I understood it some, I did not know I heard it. They repeat themselves now and I listen to it. Every way that they do it now I hear it. Now each time very slowly I come to understand it. Always it comes very slowly the completed understanding of it, the repeating each one does to tell it the whole history of the being in each one, always now I hear it. Always now slowly I understand it.
  • Disillusionment in living is finding that no one can really ever be agreeing with you completely in anything.
  • Repeating then is in every one, in every one their being and their feeling and their way of realizing everything and every one comes out of them in repeating. More and more then every one comes to be clear to some one.
  • It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.

Composition as Explanation (1926)

The creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic.
  • The creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic.
  • No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who are also creating their own time refuse to accept... For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts. In the history of the refused in the arts and literature the rapidity of the change is always startling.

Useful Knowledge (1928)

Suppose no one asked a question, what would be the answer.
  • Romance is everything.
    • "Advertisement"
  • Suppose no one asked a question, what would be the answer.
    • "Near East or Chicago A Description"

Operas and Plays (1932)

  • To know to know to love her so.
    Four saints prepare for saints.
    • Four Saints in Three Acts (1927)
  • A saint is one to be for two when three and you make five and two and cover.
    A at most.
    Saint saint a saint.
    • Four Saints in Three Acts (1927)
  • Pigeons on the grass alas.
    Pigeons on the grass alas.
    Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass.
    Pigeons large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the grass.
    • Four Saints in Three Acts (1927)

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933)

  • Gertrude Stein, in her work, has always been possessed by the intellectual passion for exactitude in the description of the inner and outer reality. She has reproduced simplification by this concentration, and as a result the destruction of associational emotion in poetry and prose. She knows that beauty, music, decoration, the result of emotion should never be the cause, even events should never be the cause of emotion nor should they be the material of poetry or prose. Nor should emotion itself be the cause of poetry and prose. They should consist of an exact reproduction of either an outer or inner reality.
    • p. 259
  • I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.

Four in America (1933)

written 1933, published 1947
  • A real failure does not need an excuse. It is an end in itself.
  • Clarity is of no importance because nobody listens and nobody knows what you mean no matter what you mean, nor how clearly you mean what you mean. But if you have vitality enough of knowing enough of what you mean, somebody and sometime and sometimes a great many will have to realize that you know what you mean and so they will agree that you mean what you know, what you know you mean, which is as near as anybody can come to understanding any one.

Lectures in America (1935)

  • Poetry is I say essentially a vocabulary just as prose is essentially not. And what is the vocabulary of which poetry absolutely is. It is a vocabulary based on the noun as prose is essentially and determinately and vigorously not based on the noun. Poetry is concerned with using with abusing, with losing with wanting with denying with avoiding with adoring with replacing the noun. It is doing that always doing that, doing that doing nothing but that. Poetry is doing nothing but using losing refusing and pleasing and betraying and caressing nouns. That is what poetry does, that is what poetry has to do no matter what kind of poetry it is. And there are a great many kinds of poetry. So that is poetry really loving the name of anything and that is not prose.
    • "Poetry and Grammar"
  • When I said. "A rose is a rose is a rose." And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do? I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun.
    • "Poetry and Grammar"

What Are Masterpieces and Why Are There So Few of Them (1936)

Picasso once remarked I do not care who it is that has or does influence me as long as it is not myself.
  • A master-piece ... may be unwelcome but it is never dull.
  • If you do not remember while you are writing, it may seem confused to others but actually it is clear and eventually that clarity will be clear, that is what a master-piece is, but if you remember while you are writing it will seem clear at the time to any one but the clarity will go out of it that is what a master-piece is not.
  • Nothing could bother me more than the way a thing goes dead once it has been said.
  • Picasso once remarked I do not care who it is that has or does influence me as long as it is not myself.
  • When you are writing before there is an audience anything written is as important as any other thing and you cherish anything and everything that you have written. After the audience begins, naturally they create something that is they create you, and so not everything is so important, something is more important than another thing.

Afterword of a later edition

As quoted by Robert Haas in a January 1946 interview:
I like a thing simple but it must be simple through complication. Everything must come into your scheme, otherwise you cannot achieve real simplicity.
  • The difference between a thinker and a newspaperman is that a thinker enters right into things, a newspaperman is superficial.
  • I like a thing simple but it must be simple through complication. Everything must come into your scheme, otherwise you cannot achieve real simplicity.
  • Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in the reality and interested in telling about it.
  • A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.
  • I have always noticed that in portraits of really great writers the mouth is always firmly closed.

The Geographical History of America (1936)

  • In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.
  • Growing has no connection with audience.
    Audience has no connection with identity.
    Identity has no connection with a universe.
    A universe has no connection with human nature.

An American and France (1936)

  • It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
  • Adventure is making the distant approach nearer but romance is having what is where it is which is not where you are stay where it is.
  • America is my country and Paris is my home town and it is as it has come to be.
  • And so I am an American and I have lived half my life in Paris, not the half that made me but the half in which I made what I made.

Everybody’s Autobiography (1937)

Identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself.
It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.
I rarely believe anything, because at the time of believing I am not really there to believe.
Explanations are clear but since no one to whom a thing is explained can connect the explanations with what is really clear, therefore clear explanations are not clear.
Understanding and believing are not the same thing.
I am slow-minded and quickly clear in expression, I am certain that I see everything that is seen and in between I stand around but I do not wait...
Perhaps I am not I even if my little dog knows me but anyway I like what I have and now it is today.
  • Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something.
    • Ch.1
  • As there was never any question there was never any answer.
    • Ch.1
  • Before one is successful that is before any one is ready to pay money for anything you do then you are certain that every word you have written is an important word to have written and that any word you have written is as important as any other word and you keep everything you have written with great care.
    • Ch. 2
  • If anything is a surprise then there is not much difference between older and younger because the only thing that does make anybody older is that they cannot be surprised.
    • Ch. 2
  • Suddenly it was all different, what I did had a value that made people ready to pay, up to that time everything I did had a value because nobody was ready to pay. It is funny about money. And it is funny about identity. You are you because your little dog knows you, but when your public knows you and does not want to pay for you and when your public knows you and does want to pay for you, you are not the same you.
    • Ch. 2
  • It always did bother me that the American public were more interested in me than in my work. And after all there is no sense in it because if it were not for my work they would not be interested in me so why should they not be more interested in my work than in me. That is one of the things one has to worry about in America.
    • Ch. 2
  • Anything scares me, anything scares anyone but really after all considering how dangerous everything is nothing is really very frightening.
    • Ch. 2
  • The earth is the earth as a peasant sees it, the world is the world as a duchess sees it, and anyway a duchess would be nothing if the earth was not there as the peasant tills it.
    • Ch.2
  • The two things most men are proudest of is the thing that any man can do and doing does in the same way, that is being drunk and being the father of their son.
    • Ch. 2
  • And identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself.
    • Ch. 2
  • It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.
    • Ch. 2
  • Would I if I could by pushing a button would I kill five thousand Chinamen if I could save my brother from anything. Well I was very fond of my brother and I could completely imagine his suffering and I replied that five thousand Chinamen were something I could not imagine and so it was not interesting.
    One has to remember that about imagination, that is when the world gets dull when everybody does not know what they can or what they cannot really imagine.
    • Ch. 3
  • The minute you or anybody else knows what you are you are not it, you are what you or anybody else knows you are and as everything in living is made up of finding out what you are it is extraordinarily difficult really not to know what you are and yet to be that thing.
    • Ch. 3
  • Everybody thinks that this civilization has lasted a very long time but it really does take very few grandfathers’ granddaughters to take us back to the dark ages.
    • Ch. 3
  • I rarely believe anything, because at the time of believing I am not really there to believe.
    • Ch. 3
  • A saint a real saint never does anything, a martyr does something but a really good saint does nothing, and so I wanted to have Four Saints who did nothing and I wrote the Four Saints In Three Acts and they did nothing and that was everything.
    Generally speaking anybody is more interesting doing nothing than doing something.
    • Ch.3
  • If the stars are suns and the earth is the earth and there are men only upon this earth and anything can put an end to anything and any dog does anything like anybody does it what is the difference between eternity and anything.
    • Ch. 3
  • I was talking like this to the Princeton professor and he said well if these are the facts there is no hope and I said well what is hope hope is just contact with the facts.
    • Ch. 3
  • Counting is the religion of this generation it is its hope and its salvation.
    • Ch. 3
  • I do want to get rich but I never want to do what there is to do to get rich.
    • Ch. 3
  • It is a difficult thing to like anybody else's ideas of being funny.
    • Ch. 3
  • Explanations are clear but since no one to whom a thing is explained can connect the explanations with what is really clear, therefore clear explanations are not clear. Now this is a simple thing that anybody who has ever argued or quarreled knows perfectly well is a simple thing, only when they read it they do not understand it because they do not see that understanding and believing are not the same thing.
    • Ch. 4
  • I dislike it when instead of saying Jew they say Hebrew or Israelite, or Semite, I do not like it and why should a Negro want to be called colored. Why should we want to lose being a Negro... I have stated that a noun to me is a stupid thing, if you know a thing and its name why bother about it but you have to know its name to talk about it. Well its name is Negro if it is a Negro and Jew if it is a Jew and both of them are nice strong names and so let us keep them.
    • Ch. 4
  • Since it could be done what was the use of doing it, and anyway you always have to stop doing something sometime.
    • Ch. 4
  • Alice Toklas' father had almost once had an oil well they dug and dug but naturally the oil did not gush, naturally not these things never do happen to any one one knows, if it could happen to them you would not be very likely to know them most naturally not.
    • Ch. 4
  • After all human beings have to live dogs too so as not to know that time is passing, that is the whole business of living to go on so they will not know that time is passing, that is why they get drunk that is why they like to go to war, during a war there is the most complete absence of the sense that time is passing a year of war lasts so much longer than any other year. After all that is what life is and that is the reason there is no Utopia, little or big young or old dog or man everybody wants every minute so filled that they are not conscious of that minute passing. It's just as well they do not think about it you have to be a genius to live in it and know it to exist in it and express it to accept it and deny it by creating it.
    • Ch. 4
  • They wanted to know how I succeeded in getting so much publicity, I said by having a small audience, I said if you have a big audience you have no publicity, this did seem to worry them and naturally it would worry them they wanted the publicity and the big audience, and really to have the biggest publicity you have to have a small one, yes all right the biggest publicity comes from the realest poetry and the realest poetry has a small audience not a big one, but it is really exciting and therefore it has the biggest publicity, all right that is it.
    • Ch. 4
  • What was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.
    • Ch. 4
  • I was clear, Alice Toklas says and very often mistaken but anyway I am clear I am a good American, I am slow-minded and quickly clear in expression, I am certain that I see everything that is seen and in between I stand around but I do not wait, no American can wait he can stand around and do nothing but he cannot wait, that is why he is not like Milton who served by standing and waiting, Americans can neither serve nor wait, they can stand and sit down and get up and walk around but they can neither serve nor wait.
    • Ch. 5
  • The head-lines which do not head anything they simply replace something but they do not make anything.
    • Ch. 5
  • Perhaps I am not I even if my little dog knows me but anyway I like what I have and now it is today.
    • Ch. 5

Picasso (1938)

  • A creator is not in advance of his generation but he is the first of his contemporaries to be conscious of what is happening to his generation.
    A creator who creates, who is not an academician, who is not someone who studies in a school where the rules are already known, and of course being known they no longer exist, a creator then who creates is necessarily of his generation. His generation lives in its contemporary way but they only live in it. In art, in literature, in the theatre, in short in everything that does not contribute to their immediate comfort they live in the preceding generation.
  • The surrealists still see things as everyone sees them, they complicate them in a different way but the vision is that of everyone else, in short the complication is the complication of the twentieth century but the vision is that of the nineteenth century. Picasso only sees something else, another reality. Complications are always easy but another vision than that of all the world is very rare.

Paris France (1940)

Page numbers are from Liveright edition (1970)
One of the pleasant things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come.
  • After all, everybody, that is, everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, it is separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there.
    • p. 2
  • The reason why all of us naturally began to live in France is because France has scientific methods, machines and electricity, but does not really believe that these things have anything to do with the real business of living.
    • p. 8
  • There is no pulse so sure of the state of a nation as its characteristic art product which has nothing to do with its material life.
    • p. 12
  • But now well democracy has shown us that what is evil are the grosses têtes, the big heads, all big heads are greedy for money and power, they are ambitious that is the reason they are big heads and so they are at the head of the government and the result is misery for the people. They talk about cutting off the heads of the grosses têtes but now we know that there will be other grosses têtes and the will be all the same.
    • p. 28
  • Propaganda is not French, it is not civilized to want other people to believe what you believe because the essence of being civilised is to possess yourself as you are, and if you possess yourself as you are you of course cannot possess any one else, it is not your business.
    • p. 56
  • But as they all say if we sell our home what will we have for it, money, and what is the use of that money, money goes and after it is gone then where are we, beside we have all we want, what can we do with money except lose it, money to spend is not very welcome, if you have it and you try to spend it, well spending money is an anxiety, saving money is a comfort and a pleasure, economy is not a duty it is a comfort, avarice is an excitement, but spending money is nothing, money spent is money non-existent, money saved is money realised...
    • p. 103
  • The family is always the family but during vacations it is an extended family and that is exhausting
    • p. 107
  • After all, human beings are like that. When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone.
  • One of the pleasant things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come.
  • Politeness does not interfere with facts, politeness is just another fact.

Wars I Have Seen (1945)

Written in 1943 and 1944
  • It often makes me know that as a cousin of mine once said about money, money is always there but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money.
    • p. 27
  • A nice war is a war where everybody who is heroic is a hero, and everybody more or less is a hero in a nice war. Now this war is not at all a nice war.
    • Statement about World War II (written in 1943), p. 77
  • Is it worse to be scared than to be bored, that is the question.
  • It is the soothing thing about history that it does repeat itself.
  • War is never fatal but always lost. Always lost.
  • Even the propagandists on the radio find it very difficult to really say let alone believe that the world will be a happy place, of love and peace and plenty, and that the lion will lie down with the lamb and everybody will believe anybody.
  • The idea of enemies is awful it makes one stop remembering eternity and the fear of death. That is what enemies are. Possessions are the same as enemies only less so, they too make one forget eternity and the fear of death.
  • It is funny that men who are supposed to be scientific cannot get themselves to realize the basic principle of physics, that action and reaction are equal and opposite, that when you persecute people you always rouse them to be strong and stronger.
  • The nineteenth century believed in science but the twentieth century does not.
  • The thing that is most interesting about government servants is that they believe what they are supposed to believe, they really do believe what they are supposed to believe.
  • Now they can do the radio in so many languages that nobody any longer dreams of a single language, and there should not any longer be dreams of conquest because the globe is all one, anybody can hear everything and everybody can hear the same thing, so what is the use of conquering.
  • One of the things that is most striking about the young generation is that they never talk about their own futures, there are no futures for this generation, not any of them and so naturally they never think of them. It is very striking, they do not live in the present they just live, as well as they can, and they do not plan. It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for a future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true.
  • A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.

How Writing Is Written: Previously Uncollected Writings, vol.II (1974)

A novel is what you dream in your night sleep.
  • I don’t envisage collectivism. There is no such animal, it is always individualism, sometimes the rest vote and sometimes they do not, and if they do they do and if they do not they do not.
  • A novel is what you dream in your night sleep. A novel is not waking thoughts although it is written and thought with waking thoughts. But really a novel goes as dreams go in sleeping at night and some dreams are like anything and some dreams are like something and some dreams change and some dreams are quiet and some dreams are not. And some dreams are just what any one would do only a little different always just a little different and that is what a novel is.
    • "The Superstitions of Fred Anneday, Annday, Anday; a Novel of Real Life" (1935)
  • The contemporary thing in art and literature is the thing which doesn't make enough difference to the people of that generation so that they can accept it or reject it.
    • "How Writing is Written," Choate Literary Magazine (February 1935)
  • Americans are very friendly and very suspicious, that is what Americans are and that is what always upsets the foreigner, who deals with them, they are so friendly how can they be so suspicious and they are so suspicious how can they be so friendly but they just are.
    • "The Capital and Capitals of the United States of America," New York Herald Tribune (9 March 1935)
  • Writers only think they are interested in politics, they are not really, it gives them a chance to talk and writers like to talk but really no real writer is really interested in politics.
    • "The Situation in American Writing," Partisan Review (Summer 1939)

Quotes about Stein

It will take her years to understand the things she's said tonight. ~ Alice B. Toklas
  • Most of us balk at her soporific rigmaroles, her echolaliac incantations, her half-witted-sounding catalogues on numbers; most of us read her less and less. Yet, remembering especially her early work, we are still always aware of her presence in the background of contemporary literature— and we picture her as the great pyramidal Buddha of Jo Davidson's statue of her, eternally and placidly ruminating the gradual developments of the process of being, registering the vibrations of a psychological country like some august human seismograph whose charts we haven't the training to read.
  • This book is in every way except actual authorship Alice Toklas's book; it reflects her mind, her language, her private view of Gertrude, also her unique narrative powers. Every story in it is told as Alice herself had always told it. ... Every story that ever came into the house eventually got told in Alice's way, and this was its definitive version.
    • Virgil Thomson, comments on The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in "A Portrait of Gertrude Stein", from An Autobiography of Virgil Thomson, p.176-177
  • As I read it, my ears opened up for the first time in my life and I began to hear Negroes... Above all, I began to hear for the first time the pure, deep dialect of my grandmother. And from that moment on, in all my attempts at writing I was able to tap that vast resevoir of living speech that went on about me.
  • Then soon after my delight with Stein was jolted; a political critic of the reddest persuasion condemned Stein in a newspaper article, calling her decadent, implying that she reclined upon a silken couch in Paris smoking hashish day and night and was a hopeless prey to hallucinations. I asked myself if I were wrong or crazy or decadent. Being simple minded, I decided upon a very practical way of determining the worth of the prose of Stein, a prose I had accepted without qualms or distress. I gathered a group of semi-illiterate Negro workers into a Chicago basement and read them Melanctha aloud. They were enthralled, interrupting me constantly to tell where and when they had met such a strange and melancholy gal. I was convinced and Miss Stein's book never bothered or frightened me after that. If Negro stockyard workers could understand the stuff when it was read aloud to them, then surely anybody else could if they wanted to read with their ears as well as their eyes. For the prose of Stein is but the repetitive contemporaneousness of our living speech woven into a grammarless form of narrative...
    • Richard Wright, "Gertrude Stein's Story is Drenched in Hitler's Horrors," rough draft of a review of Wars I Have Seen (1946), Beinecke Library, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
  • I'll always be Alice Toklas if you'll be Gertrude Stein.
    • Sung by Vera Charles, played by Beatrice Arthur in the musical number "Bosom Buddies" from Mame (1974)
  • Gertrude Stein, all courage and will, is a soldier of minimalism. Her work, unlike the resonating silences in the art of Samuel Beckett, embodies in its loquacity and verbosity the curious paradox of the minimalist form. This art of the nuance in repetition and placement she shares with the orchestral compositions of Philip Glass.
  • A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose said my old friend Gertrude Stein.
    • Poe, "A Rose is a Rose"
  • It will take her years to understand the things she's said tonight.
  • Unsurprisingly, Gertrude Stein was not a fan of the question mark. Are you beginning to suspect—as I am—that there was something wrong at home?


When this you see remember me.
  • When this you see remember me.
    • Though Stein famously used these words among some of her poems and writings, including Four Saints in Three Acts (1927) where they are lyrics to a hymn of communion, the phrase itself is far older and was published among anonymous "Love Posies" in 1596. It was a phrase often used in short letters, and also seems to have become incorporated into common epitaphs, one for Sarah Bryan in 1803 including it:
When I am dead and in my grave
And all my bones are rotten,
When this you see, remember me,
Let me not be forgotten.

External links

Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Wikipedia has an article about:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address