Gertrude Stein

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Stein, Gertrude

Stein, Gertrude, 1874–1946, American author and patron of the arts, b. Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pa. A celebrated personality, she encouraged, aided, and influenced—through her patronage as well as through her writing—many literary and artistic figures. After attending (1893–97) Radcliffe, where she was a student of William James, she began premedical work at Johns Hopkins. In 1902, relinquishing her studies, she went abroad and from 1903 until her death lived chiefly in Paris. For many years her secretary and lover was Alice B. Toklas. In Paris, Stein became interested in modern art movements; she encouraged and purchased the work of many new painters, including Picasso and Matisse. During the 1920s, she was the leader of a cultural salon that included such writers as Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, all of whose works she influenced. It was she who first coined the phrase “lost generation” for those post–World War I expatriates. During World War II she remained in France, and after the war her Paris home became a meeting place for American soldiers.

Stein's own innovative writing emphasizes the sounds and rhythms rather than the sense of words. By departing from conventional meaning, grammar, and syntax, she attempted to capture “moments of consciousness,” independent of time and memory. Her first published work was Three Lives (completed 1905, pub. 1909), short stories in which she explored the mental processes of three women, but her most characteristic and probably most difficult narrative is the lengthy, dark, dense, and repetitive The Making of Americans (completed 1911, pub. 1925). The famous Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), a linear narrative written in relatively ordinary language, is the story of her own life presented as that of her companion. Stein's critical essays were published as Composition as Explanation (1926), How to Write (1931), Narration (1935), and Lectures in America (1935). Her many other works include the volume of poetry Tender Buttons (1914), a series of “cubist” verbal portraits; two librettos for the operas of Virgil Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947); Wars I Have Seen (1945), some personal observations; and Brewsie and Willie (1946), about American soldiers in France.


See biographies by J. M. Brinnin (1959, repr. 1987) and J. Hobhouse (1975); D. Souhami, Gertrude and Alice (1992); B. Kellner, ed., A Gertrude Stein Companion (1988); A. B. Toklas, What Is Remembered (1963, repr. 1985); J. R. Mellow, Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company (1974, repr. 1991); L. Simon, ed., Gertrude Stein Remembered (1994); B. Wineapple, Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein (1996); J. Malcolm, Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (2007); studies by R. Dubnick (1984), J. L. Walker (1984), and U. E. Dydo (2003); bibliography by R. A. Wilson and A. Uphill (1999).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Stein, Gertrude


Born Feb. 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pa.; died July 27,1946, in Neuilly-sur-Seine. American writer.

Stein attended Radcliffe College and studied psychology under William James. She went to live in Europe in 1902. Her work is noted for bold experiments with literary forms. Her prose (the novella Three Lives, 1908; the novel The Making of Americans, 1906–08, published 1925) and verse are experimental in nature. Hemingway adopted certain elements of her style. Stein coined the expression “the lost generation.”


Selected Writings. New York, 1962.


Kashkin, I. E. Kheminguei. Moscow, 1966.
Stewart, A. G. Stein and the Present. Cambridge, Mass., 1967.
Mellow, J. R. Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company. New York-Washington, D.C. [1974].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Stein, Gertrude

(1874–1946) writer, art patron; born in Allegheny, Pa. Daughter of a wealthy merchant, she lived in Europe with her family (1874–79). Upon their return, the family settled in Oakland, Calif. She attended Radcliffe College (B.A. 1898), where she studied psychology under William James (and would remain greatly influenced by his ideas) and at Johns Hopkins Medical School (1897–1901). She followed her brother, Leo Stein, first to London and then Paris (1903), where they began collecting post-impressionist paintings, thereby helping several leading artists such as Matisse and Picasso. She and Leo established a famous literary and artistic salon at 27 rue de Fleurus. Leo moved to Florence, Italy, in 1912, taking many of the paintings, but from 1909 Gertrude had as her assistant Alice B. Toklas, who would remain as Gertrude's lifelong companion. She had been writing for several years and began to publish her innovative works: Three Lives (1909), The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family's Progress (written 1906–11; published 1925), and Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms (1914). Intended to employ the techniques of abstraction and cubism in prose, much of her work was virtually unintelligible to even educated readers. During World War I she bought her own Ford van and she and Toklas served as ambulance drivers for the French. After the war, she maintained her salon (although after 1928 she spent much of the year in the village of Bilignin, and in 1937 she moved to a more stylish location in Paris) and served as both hostess and inspiration to such American expatriates as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. (She is credited with coining the term, "the lost generation.") She lectured in England in 1926 and in 1933 published her only commercial success, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, written by Stein from Toklas's point of view. She made a successful lecture tour of the U.S.A. in 1934 but returned to France where she spent World War II; with the liberation of Paris in 1944, she was visited by many Americans. In addition to her other novels and memoirs, she wrote librettos to two operas by Virgil Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947). Although critical opinion is divided on her various writings, the imprint of her strong, witty personality survives as does her influence on contemporary literature.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
In another important contribution to Stein studies, Sarah Posman and Laura Luise Schultz's Gertrude Stein in Europe: Reconfigurations across Media, Disciplines, and Traditions comprises a very useful set of essays placing Stein's work in its original European contexts, arguing that the labeling of Stein as quintessential American writer obscures the importance of her work, which has long circulated in France and beyond.
Thomas Mofolo, 22 December, 1876-8 September, 1948; Gertrude Stein, 3 February, 1874-27 July, 1946.
Stein was an outsider, a Jewish lesbian writer of what was mocked as meaningless doggerel: in the 1935 Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rogers movie Top Hat, the Rogers character comments on a bewildering and repetitive telegram by observing, "Sounds like Gertrude Stein!" Almost a century later, Douglas L.
A complementary discussion of Gertrude Stein with a more cultural and biographical emphasis was formulated in tandem with it as Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories, by Tirza True Latimer and Wanda Corn.
(Picasso once respectfully addressed a letter: "To Mademoiselle Gertrude Stein, Man of Letters.") And while she did not announce her Jewishness, she was, all the same, perceived by the artistic goyim of that first decade of the 20th centuryin a Paris still reeling from the combat of the Dreyfus Affairas Jewish.
"Seeing Gertrude Stein" is on view at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington.
In 1900 Leo and Gertrude Stein visited the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, fell in love with the city, and moved there in 1902 followed by the eldest brother, Michael, his wife, Sarah and their young son, Allan.
Paris portraits; stories of Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and their circle.
The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson: Composition as Conversation.
In January of 1926, the twenty-nine-year-old composer and critic Virgil Thomson met Gertrude Stein, then fifty-one, a writer of hermetic texts and well-known member of the transatlantic modernist avant-garde.
Giselle Potter (illustrator), Gertrude Stein (author); TO DO: A BOOK OF ALPHABETS AND BIRTHDAYS; Yale University Press (Children's: Picture Books) $25.00 ISBN: 9780300170979