In early March, we published an entry extolling the magnificent exhibition of the Stein collection currently on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The Steins Collect”).
One glaring omission in the Met’s curating of the exhibition was how the collection managed to survive the Nazis’ decimation of Europe’s art collections, particularly those belonging to Jewish families, when those of virtually all the other Jews were taken by force, and their owners shipped off to death camps.
How could the famous art collection of Gertrude Stein (and her two brothers) survive the Nazi occupation of France? For that matter, how did a gay Jew (Gertrude) from Baltimore avoid being sent to a concentration camp? While the Vichy government rounded up thousands of Jews in Paris, sending them first to the internment camp of Drancy and from there to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, were safely sequestered in the Alps.
It helped, surely, that Stein nominated Adolf Hitler for the Nobel Peace Price in 1938. Or that, four years earlier, she told the New York Times, “I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all the elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace … By suppressing Jews … he was ending struggle in Germany.” And that among her greatest supporters in Occupied France was Bernard Faÿ, the influential head of the Bibliothèque Nationale and an avowed anti-Semite.
That changed, following several days of outcry by New York political leaders like Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Brooklyn City Councilman Dov Hikind, who is an Orthodox Jew and who told the radio station 1010 WINS,
“The public has a right to know. Transparency is extremely important; historic accountability is important. Gertrude Stein was a miserable person who collaborated with the Nazis.”
The Metropolitan has now added information to its exhibition exploring how and why the Steins’ art collection survived World War II.
A number of periodicals have published elucidations of Gertrude’s treachery, among them:
elliottingotham’s entry of March 2, 2002:
I attended a members’ preview of this memorable exhibition on Sunday, February 26. I think it is one of the most beautifully-curated exhibits the Met has ever produced. The Steins were an extraordinary and visionary family of collectors. Living in Paris at the very dawn of the 20th century, they collected works by artists now held to be among the greatest in art history, but who at the time were not only little-known, but deemed to be of questionable talent. These included Henri Manguin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Honoré Daumier, Henri Matisse, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Gertrude and Leo’s home on the Rue de Fleurus became a mecca for these artists, and their growing circle of admirers. Here follows metmuseum.org’s by-line for their exhibition “The Steins Collect”.
Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael’s wife Sarah were important patrons of modern art in Paris during the first decades of the twentieth century. This exhibition unites some two hundred works of art to demonstrate the significant impact the Steins’ patronage had on the artists of their day and the way in which the family disseminated a new standard of taste for modern art. The Steins’ Saturday evening salons introduced a generation of visitors to recent developments in art, particularly the work of their close friends Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, long before it was on view in museums.
Beginning with the art that Leo Stein collected when he arrived in Paris in 1903—including paintings and prints by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Édouard Manet, and Auguste Renoir—the exhibition traces the evolution of the Steins’ taste and examines the close relationships formed between individual members of the family and their artist friends. While focusing on works by Matisse and Picasso, the exhibition also includes paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Juan Gris, Marie Laurencin, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Manguin, André Masson, Elie Nadelman, Francis Picabia, and others.
Accompanied by a catalogue and an Audio Guide
The exhibition is made possible by The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation and the Janice H. Levin Fund.
Additional support provided by The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation.
The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, Paris.
It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
© 2000–2012 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
- Inside Art: Met Show Focuses on Gertrude Stein’s Family as Art Patrons (nytimes.com)
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- Metropolitan Museum of Art to reopen American Wing after $100 million remodel (gadling.com)
- Art Review: ‘The Steins Collect,’ Matisse and Picasso, at the Met (nytimes.com)
- Discovering Matisse and Picasso: Americans in Paris (economist.com)
- Visual Arts: Gertrude Stein and the Modern Masters (artchicken.wordpress.com)
- ‘The Steins Collect’ (nytimes.com)
- Assemblyman Dov Hikind Demands Metropolitan Museum Of Art Disclose Gertrude Stein’s Nazi Past (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Met to modify Gertrude Stein exhibit to indicate Nazi ties (jta.org)
- Met to modify Gertrude Stein exhibit to indicate Nazi ties (timesofisrael.com)