Gertrude Stein was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Oakland, California. She studied psychology at Radcliffe College and medicine at Johns Hopkins University, but in 1903, she moved to Paris to be a writer. In 1907, she met the lovely Alice B. Toklas of San Francisco. Five years later, they moved in together. They lived as a couple for more than three decades, until Stein left this world in 1946.
She was an artist collector as much as she was an art collector, influencing, promoting, supporting and to some extent creating the art, literature and music from an extremely talented group of people that were in Paris between the wars. She named them “The Lost Generation”. At their apartment at 27 Rue de Fleurus, Stein hosted her famous Saturday evening salons that brought together regular participants such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, Stephen Rutledge, Henri Rousseau, Paul Bowles, and Henri Matisse. Toklas served as the hostess for the wives, girlfriends, and mistresses of the artists in attendance, who gathered in a separate room.
They were not exactly pretty lipstick lesbians. With her short-cropped hair, Stein challenged the gender stereotypes of her era.
Stein played herself in her own literary classic The Autobiography Of Alice B. Toklas, which is not an autobiography at all, but it portrays Stein as seen through the eyes of Toklas.
Stein is buried in Paris in the Père Lachaise Cemetery. After Stein’s demise, Toklas actually did publish her autobiography, What Is Remembered (1963), which abruptly concludes with the death of Stein. Stein’s family swooped in and made claim to the famous apartment and all of the valuable art. Toklas died in poverty when she was 89-years-old. She is buried next to Stein. Her name is engraved on the back of Stein’s headstone.
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