Art, Art Museums, Museum Exhibitions, Women in Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Acknowledges Gertrude Stein’s Collaboration with the Nazis

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:

The New Yorker
Jewish World Review
The New York Daily News


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 ManguinPierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Paul CézannePierre-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’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.



6 thoughts on “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Acknowledges Gertrude Stein’s Collaboration with the Nazis

  1. Elliott, I was not aware of Stein’s advocacy of Hitler. In my earlier readings (perhaps by apologists), it was suggested that this was an ironic statement since she, herself, was Jewish.

    Posted by Dennis Aubrey | May 7, 2012, 3:04 pm
  2. That is a conundrum, isn’t it, Dennis? It seems she valued her art over personal identity.

    Posted by elliottingotham | May 7, 2012, 3:25 pm
  3. Dear  ,
    they are right looking for the historic truth about Gertrude Stein in this however wonderfull exhibition,”The Steins Collect;Matisse,Picasso,Cezanne and the Parisian Avant Garde” in NewYork at the Metropolitan Museum of Art .

    Because what a pleasure to see the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira .Who was as Picasso an antifascist and antinazi artist .Persecuted by Franco and the Nazis .
    But who is in this exhibition ,thanks to Rebecca Rabinow and Edward Burns, perhaps
    the only one artist would fought them weapons in his hands .
    Whose father was in jail after the spanish civil war .So Riba-Rovira is beside Tchelitchew and Balthus and Francis Rose near Picabia and Picasso in the last room of this exhibition with Cézanne, Matisse .

    And you have an interesting article in Appollo London Revew about him .And also in Artes Magazine from San Francisco where the exhibition was before .

    But the main document as a revelation is with the mention beside the picture with the Preface Gertrude Stein wrote for first Riba-Rovira’s exhibition in the Galerie Roquepine in Paris on 1945 .
    Where we can read Gertrude Stein writing Riba-Rovira “will go farther than Cezanne…will succeed in where Picasso failed…I am fascinated ” by Riba-Rovira Gertrude Stein tells us .

    And you are you also fascinated indeed as Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira ?

    Me I am when I see « L’Arlequin » on the free access website of « Galeria Muro ».

    But Gertrude Stein spoke also in this same document about Matisse and  Juan Gris .
    Riba-Rovira went each week in Gertrude Stein’s saloon rue Christine with Masson ,Hemingway and others. By Edward Burns and Carl Van Vechten we can know Riba-Rovira did others portraits of Gertrude Stein .

    But we do not know where they are ;and you do you know perhaps ?

    With this wonderful portrait we do not forget it is the last time Gertrude Stein sat for an artist who is Riba-Rovira .
    This exhibition presents us a world success with this last painting portrait before she died .And her last Gertrude Stein’s Art Retrospective before dead .

    It illuminates the tone as an esthetic light over that exhibition now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York thanks to Curator Rebecca Rabinow .

    Coming from San Francisco “Seeing five stories” in the Jewish museum to Washington in National Portrait Gallery .And now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York for our pleasure .

    And the must is to see for the first time in the same place portraits by Picasso, Picabia, Riba-Rovira, Rose ,Tall-Coat, Valloton .Never before it was .

    You have the translate of Gertrude Stein’s Riba-Rovira Preface on english Gertrude Stein’s page on Wikipedia and in the catalog of this Roquepine exhibition you can see in first place the mention of this portrait .And also other pictures Gertrude Stein bought to Riba-Rovira .
    There is another place where you can see now Riba-Rovira’s works in an exhibition in Valencia in Spain “Homenage a Gertrude Stein” by Riba-Rovira in Galleria Muro ,if you like art …

    But we do not missed today that all over Europe a very bad wind is blowing again bringing the worth in front of us .And we must know that at least were two antinazis and antifascists in this exhibition but the only one fighting weapons in hands would be Riba-Rovira who did one of the first three « affiches » supporting Republicans in the beguining Spanish civil war .

    Seeing Potrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira in the Metropolitain Museum of New York with Picasso ,Cézanne ,Matisse we feel a recreation of spirit .

    Posted by mabonnetoile | May 16, 2012, 12:21 pm
  4. With the current controversy about Gertrude Stein and after the Edward Burns’s answer it is interesting to Know one of the last Gertrude Stein’s vew before dying when she speaks about art it is also politic .

    Stein’s preface to the exhibition by Francisco Riba Rovira at Roquepine Gallery in May 1945:
    « It is inevitable that when we really need someone we find him. The person you need attracts you like a magnet. I returned to Paris, after these long years spent in the countryside and I needed a young painter, a young painter who would awaken me. Paris was magnificent, but where was the young painter? I looked everywhere: at my contemporaries and their followers. I walked a lot, I looked everywhere, in all the galleries, but the young painter was not there. Yes, I walk a lot, a lot at the edge of the Seine where we fish, where we paint, where we walk dogs (I am of those who walk their dogs). Not a single young painter!
    One day, on the corner of a street, in one of these small streets in my district, I saw a man painting. I looked at him; at him and at his painting, as I always look at everybody who creates something I have an indefatigable curiosity to look and I was moved. Yes, a young painter!
    We began to speak, because we speak easily, as easily as in country roads, in the small streets of the district. His story was the sad story of the young people of our time. A young Spaniard who studied in fine arts in Barcelona: civil war; exile; a concentration camp; escape. Gestapo, another prison, another escape… Eight lost years! If they were lost, who knows? And now a little misery, but all the same the painting. Why did I find that it was him the young painter, why? I visited his drawings, his painting: we speak.
    I explained that for me, all modern painting is based on what Cézanne nearly made, instead of basing itself on what he almost managed to make. When he could not make a thing, he hijacked it and left it. He insisted on showing his incapacity: he spread his lack of success: showing what he could not do, became an obsession for him. People influenced by him were also obsessed by the things which they could not reach and they began the system of camouflage. It was natural to do so, even inevitable: that soon became an art, in peace and in war, and Matisse concealed and insisted at the same time on that Cézanne could not realize, and Picassoconcealed, played and tormented all these things.
    The only one who wanted to insist on this problem, was Juan Gris. He persisted by deepening the things which Cézanne wanted to do, but it was too hard a task for him: it killed him.And now here we are, I find a young painter who does not follow the tendency to play with what Cézanne could not do, but who attacks any right the things which he tried to make, to create the objects which have to exist, for, and in themselves, and not in relation.
    This young painter has his weaknesses and his strengths. His force will push him in this road. I am fascinated and that is why he is the young painter who I needed. He is Francisco Riba Rovira. »
    Gertrude Stein
    from Wikipedia and Yale University and also mainly “Fontaine” revew mentioned by Edward Burns when he did an answer .

    Perhaps you have something to tell about .Because why did she help Riba-Rovira ?
    Was she only fascinated by his art ?Was it a politic mistification and manipulation to make on his back a new vitginity for her…
    Because as she tells ,he was persecuted by the nazi .Certainly arrested after “sabotages” in coke working in St Etienne ,if he would not escape from Vannes in a transit camp where the ss wera from Holland he would be send to Mathausen as a red and republican spanish .
    But in all that when we saw in the Met the portrait of Gertrude Stein he did we can read in his way of painting a kind touch of something hieratic ,very straight ,as you must to be after beeing down .
    Running and running more to escape when you not even a diamond to have a glass of water .All his life fighting the faschism as you him with Picasso when they did the book to support coke miners in the Asturies who were on stricke in Spain at the same moment Franco killed Juan Grimao in the sixties …

    Posted by mabonnetoile | June 27, 2012, 1:42 pm
  5. Mabonnetoile, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of Riba-Rovira! I must confess, I was not familiar with him before this exhibition.

    Very best wishes, Elliott

    Posted by elliottingotham | June 27, 2012, 4:00 pm
  6. Dear Elliot ,

    thank you .

    When you are united with people as your lips ,you come on every day that you have to rememeber the pictures ,the drawing you could not do when you were sleeping in the camps in Argeles beach made by Popular Front in France while to the border it was possible to see all the weapon railways from Staline, the french popular front keep away out from republican soldiers…

    It is how the french left help them…

    So in his dreams perhaps were some he did after the war .When you see one drawing was sold last year ,and you can see it on the website ,it seems more really than the photo of him you can see on Galeria Muro website .

    So it is what give art .Not a reproduction ,but only an interpretation sometimes what you feel in your mind, just what you feel with sensitive eyes, and when I see his link autoportrait drawing ,it appears his hands just following something more that it was previously…

    But for me the best I saw was not mainly his portrait of Gertrude Stein but the picture “Arlequin” on Galeria Muro website free access I remember .

    Kinds Regard to the futur because it is always now .


    Posted by mabonnetoile | July 3, 2012, 6:31 am

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