In conjunction with the exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde, on view February 28 through June 3, 2012, curator Rebecca A. Rabinow provides audio commentary on the in-gallery projection of Leo and Gertrude Stein's studio and collection.
Rebecca Rabinow: Hi, I'm Rebecca Rabinow, a curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When Leo Stein decided to become an artist and move to Paris at the end of 1902, Leo rented a studio, which was on 27 rue de Fleurus, just a few blocks from the Luxembourg Gardens. Gertrude and her companion, Alice Toklas, remained there until the mid-nineteen-thirties.
The organizers of The Steins Collect have been working on this exhibition for about eight years and we've gone to archives around the United States and in Europe. I think we found over four hundred photographs—snapshots that the Steins took to document art as it entered into their home. And they sent these photographs to friends and family.
Here, in this space, which is exactly the dimensions of the rue de Fleurus studio, we can see when a work enters the collection and then moves across the room and is replaced by something else. They sky their paintings from the floor to the ceiling. It was a very modest room, it had a stove; it had no electricity. Instead of having any wooden paneling, they simply painted wainscoting a terracotta-y red color to about four feet high, and above that it was a just a dirty white gray. Over the years there were water leaks; the walls became stained. The Steins felt that the modest, almost shabby surroundings only emphasized the greatness of the works on the walls.
Gertrude used the studio as her writing space and Leo used the studio as his painting space, and they were disturbed by the number of visitors who came during the day. So they decided to have a Saturday Salon. Anyone with a reference in hand was allowed to come and look at the art on the wall. Four hundred and sixty square feet is probably the size of an average studio apartment in New York City, and imagine it glowing with the reds and the blues and yellows—how overwhelming it must have been. When one thinks about the visitors who came and had these conversations about the art and about literature and about music in this space, it must have been an incredible place.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Edward Burns, 2012
Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone Papers, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art
Elise Stern Haas Collection, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
SFMOMA curatorial files, Department of Painting and Sculpture