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Seeing Gertrude Stein

Five Stories

Wanda Corn (Author), Tirza Latimer (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN: 9780520270022
June 2011
$52.95, £36.95
Gertrude Stein is justly famous for her modernist writings and her patronage of vanguard painters (most notably Matisse and Picasso) in Paris before the First World War. Seeing Gertrude Stein, the companion book to an exhibition of the same name, illuminates less familiar aspects of her life. Wanda M. Corn and Tirza True Latimer analyze the portraits for which Stein posed, the domestic settings she created with Alice B. Toklas, her partner, and the signature styles of dress the two women adopted. Corn and Latimer also explore Stein’s engagement with multiple art forms and the bonds she formed with younger artists. Focusing on portraits in a range of media, photo essays, press clippings, snapshots, clothing, furniture, and other visual artifacts, this pathbreaking study reveals Stein’s sophistication in shaping her public image and cultural legacy. Lavishly illustrated throughout, these “five stories” represent Stein’s life on a human scale while tracing her influence on a wide variety of visual artists of her own and subsequent generations.
Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History at Stanford University, is the author of The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915–1935 and Women Building History: Public Art at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, both from UC Press. Tirza True Latimer, Associate Professor in the Departments of Fine Arts and Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts, is the author of Women Together/Women Apart: Portraits of Lesbian Paris.
“The judicious catalog—defensive, but not worshipful (it cannily avoids talking about her writing)—may be the most candid, thoughtful and extensive biography [Stein] will ever get.”—Wall Street Journal
“The book can be seen as a life in pictures, or a visual biography, collecting and analyzing an impressively large array of portraits of (if not by) Stein. It is especially good on details of decor, dress, and pose, and on the less well-known interwar decades when Stein held court to an ever-evolving cast of mostly gay, mostly male artists and writers in Paris and at Bilignin.”—Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
Seeing Gertrude Stein argues persuasively that Stein continues to challenge sexual, cultural, and racial norms—and to inspire creative projects.”—Biography
“California educators deciding how to meet the state’s new requirements to include lesbian and gay Americans in history curricula could strike gold by digging into Wanda Corn’s magnum opus on Gertrude Stein’s life and times.”—Stanford Magazine
“[The book contains] assiduous research, careful selection and confident discussion. . . . The fascinating omnipresence of Stein in all areas of cultural production, not least fashion, is singular, rendering this book uniquely gratifying.”—Igna Fraser, National Portrait Gallery, London Costume
“Richly illustrated book. . . . Highly recommended.”—E. K. Mix Choice
“Innovative, fascinating and far-reaching, Seeing Gertrude Stein is a brilliant and original investigation into the artistic and sexual self-fashioning of a writer perhaps best-known for her role as a patron of artists from Picasso and Matisse to Pavel Tchelitchew and Christian Bérard. Drawing on archived photographs, many of them unpublished, and combining art history and cultural studies, Wanda Corn and Tirza True Latimer liberate Stein from a public image long identified with the broad planes, impenetrable gaze, and archaic references of Picasso's 1907 portrait. As they analyze images of Stein within a variety of contexts—from family, domesticity, and friendship to celebrity, collaborations, and legacy—they reveal Stein, and her life-long partner Alice Toklas, as they saw themselves, and as active collaborators in shaping a unique iconography of femininity, lesbianism and modernity for the twentieth century.”

—Whitney Chadwick, author of Women, Art, and Society

"This is an exciting, lucid, well-researched, and gracefully written book about Gertrude Stein’s fruitful and varied engagement in twentieth century culture and aesthetics. Although I have studied and loved Stein’s writing for years, this book gives me a fresh and often surprising vision of Stein as a visual artist immersed in 'the power of imagery to shape reputation and public identity.' I am sure that for readers (and viewers) new to Stein, this book will be as inspiring, fun, and illuminating as it will be to aficionados."

—Harriet Chessman, author of The Public Is Invited to Dance: Representation, the Body, and Dialogue in Gertrude Stein

“Each of the five aspects (or ‘stories’) in Seeing Gertrude Stein offers fascinating new discoveries, unexpected objects and images, and a profound respect for archival research and the particularities of the historical past. By presenting Stein as (1) a model for artists and photographers, (2) a domestic partner (and decorator of interiors) with Alice B. Toklas (3) a mixer and matcher of people and circles of social acquaintance, (4) an object of popular media attention, and (5) a posthumous legend made and queerly remade in the decades since 1946, this book will forever change the ways in which Stein is understood and appreciated. Beautifully written and brilliantly designed, Seeing Gertrude Stein marks a major contribution to the fields of modernism, art history, visual culture, and queer studies.”

—Richard Meyer, author of Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art

Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award Honor Books, Stonewall Book Awards 2012, American Library Association

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