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Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein Paperback – March 1, 2008
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Central to avant-garde Paris in the early years of this century, Gertrude Stein grew into a cult figure, a proponent of modernist experimentation and a writer who inspired such authors as Ernest Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson. Less well known is her brother, Leo Stein, who amassed an incredible collection of early modern art and helped paved the way for his sister's modernist exploration. In this biography, Brenda Wineapple traces the story of the Steins' eventful life and their own relationship, which ended with a complete break. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Just before WW I, the suffocating brother-sister relationship of the Steins ended in Paris. They never again spoke to each other. Gertrude Stein's gift for self-promotion has largely created her image. Now Wineapple (the biographer of Janet Flanner?Genet) looks behind it. "It was I who was the genius," Gertrude claimed, "there was no reason for it, but I was, and he was not." Siblings of German-Jewish ancestry with inherited incomes, Gertrude and Leo Stein showed little motivation to succeed at anything. Leo would drop out of law schol, Gertrude out of medical school. From their teens in Cambridge and Baltimore into their late 30s on the Continent, they remained close, often living together. In France, they collected bohemian friends and avant-garde art while trying to find themselves. Gertrude grew fat and sloppy while bullying her lesbian set; Leo became neurotic and anorexic, his sense of inadequacy growing in proportion to his sister's success. By 1913, her experimental prose built upon repetition and rhythm was already being parodied. Going nowhere when Alice Toklas moved in, Leo moved out of the already famous Paris flat hung with Picassos, Matisses and Renoirs to a cottage in Italy, taking half the pictures. Leo's loyal?but desperate?mistress would follow him. Finally, just before his death in 1947, Leo published the single book on aesthetics by which he would be remembered. The year before, he had heard about Gertrude's death only from a newspaper. Their years together are not inspiring reading, but Wineapple's account evokes their lives as never before.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Baltimore played a big role in the family's history and development. Paternal grandparents Michael and Hannah Stein, arrived there on the Pioneer in 1841 with their four youngest children. Their boat was met by Meyer Stein, their eldest son, who had convinced them to leave Germany and join him in Baltimore. Michael, Leo and Gertrude all spent time there-- embraced and entertained by an extensive network of cousins, aunts and uncles as Johns Hopkins stretched their minds.
The eldest Stein sibling, Michael, was an astute businessman. He acquired ownership of all San Francisco street railways, creating the Omnibus Railroad and Cable Company and developed real estate, providing the funds for the art purchases. In 1904 at the age of thirty-eight, he retired and brought his wife and son to join his youngest siblings in Paris to see what had so excited Gertrude and Leo. Michael and Sarah toured museums and galleries under the tutelage of Gertrude and Leo, read a few of Leo's art books and listened to their endless discussions of art. Leo wrote to a friend, "Mike and Sarah are becoming more devotedly Parisian every day and are gradually burrowing deep into the museums." Michael still managed the finances of Gertrude and Leo, freeing them from the necessity to ever work. Soon, Sarah had her own flat and held her salon on Saturdays, showing art by several of the same artists. She felt competitive with her husband's intellectual young siblings and became "ecstatic" about Matisse when his paintings became too expensive for Leo and Gertrude to purchase his new work.
Matisse dismissed the new style of Picasso and Braque, calling it "cubism." Cubism later became "the prism through which Gertrude and Leo Stein would refract their profound disappointment with each other." The rift of the brother and sister in 1914 required a division of the joint art collection. Leo took the Renoirs. The Cezannes were divided into half for each and Leo was sufficiently disinterested in all the other artists to let Gertrude keep them when he relocated to Tuscany. As Gertrude rose from success to success, Leo experienced failure after failure, cementing their estrangement.
The author plumbs the psychology and education that made the sister and brother such passionate collectors and advocates of the Paris avant garde. This book painstakingly follows Gertrude's and Leo's intellectual development through its twists and turns making it the ideal preparation for a pair of major 2011 exhibits at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM). "The Steins Collect" brought significant attention to the contribution of the Stein siblings. "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories" focuses on Gertrude's life, writing and influence on artists, writers and composers during the early 20th century. When the pair leave San Francisco in the fall of 2011, they will travel in different directions. The SFMOMA exhibit will go on view at Paris' Galleries Nationals du Grand Palais in the fall and New York's Metropolitan Museum in the first half of 2012. The CJM exhibition will open at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Only San Francisco got the pair together in a rich tandem.
But what hangs together-- whether brother and sister, or a great art collection -- can come undone, and it is the glory of this joint biography that Wineapple so carefully and tenderly traces the forces -- sexual appetites and obsessions, intellectual competitions, the powerful dialectic between dependence and autonomy -- which led to an absolute rupture between Leo and Gertrude, a rupture so complete that they never talked or wrote to one another again, for a period of thirty years. In those thirty years Gertrude became a central force in modern literature, while Leo subsided from the world into fad diets and unfinished projects. And yet, and yet: Wineapple does not sit in judgement, and it is the triumph of this book that Leo's many failures are as human, and as touching, and Gertrude's many successes: the reader ends up seeing ythe weaknesses of both, yet greatly admiring both.
The subject of the book, finally, is not Gertrude and Leo, but the strange, tender, and torrential emotions that run between brothers and sisters, and the many routes through life which lead either to social failure or social success.
Besides a great biography of Leo and Gertrude, the author provides great history of Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Bryn Mawr, etc.
A very delightful book; highly recommended.