In the fall of 1903, Gertrude Stein and Leo Stein, an older brother, took an apartment together at 27, rue de Fleurus, in Paris. The following January, Michael Stein, another older brother, and Sarah, his wife, took an apartment nearby. Thus begins the story of the Steins’ collecting of avant-garde painting and their towering influence on the art of the early twentieth century.
In eleven essays by leading scholars, The Steins Collect, which accompanies a major exhibition in Paris, San Francisco, and New York, examines the contributions and advocacy of the Stein family, discussing each member’s role. Leo was an early admirer of Cézanne; Gertrude’s friendship with Picasso was instrumental in launching his career; Michael and Sarah were champions of Matisse, with whom they had a long and close friendship even after their return to the United States. But this suggests only a portion of the Steins’ place in early twentieth-century culture. They were deeply interested in all the arts; individually they left their mark on photography, architecture, art criticism, and literature.
Each of the essays is followed by reproductions of the art associated with the subject of the essay, making up a little over half the book. The remainder documents the place of the Steins in cultural history — archival family photographs as well as archival photographs of their homes with artwork in place; Sarah’s notebooks recording Matisse’s comments to his students at the academy she and Michael helped establish for him; a catalogue of the Stein collections; a chronology of their lives; plus scholarly addenda. It should be noted that the book deals only with the cultural side of the Steins’ lives and does not discuss, except in passing, their personal or political lives. Above all, The Steins Collect is a massive book of magnificent art, beautifully printed on exceptionally fine paper in a somewhat larger than usual format. It can be enjoyed for that alone. Color catalogue plus almost 500 plates, both full-color art and archival photography; chronology; index; references.
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.