Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Steins Collect at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
With Jane in a cab going down Fifth Avenue
I went with my fourteen-year-old niece and godchild Jane up to the Metropolitan Museum on Sunday for a serious infusion of art. We saw the new American Wing (beautiful, don't miss it) and the new Galleries for Arab Lands (daunting and worth a visit) but the centerpiece of the trip was the current exhibition called The Steins Collect which is about the Stein siblings who were important collectors of modern art in Paris in the early part of the twentieth century.
The Steins – Leo, Michael and his wife Sarah, and Gertrude the writer who made an appearance in Woody Allen's movie Midnight in Paris – were Americans from Pittsburgh who lived in Paris and befriended unknown artists including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. They bought paintings inexpensively and amassed a spectacular collection of modern art which is now on view at the Met. The exhibit states that artists, writers and musicians convened at the Steins' Saturday salons. "By opening their houses and making art accessible the Steins did more to support art than any other collector or institution during the first decades of the twentieth century."
The art is colorful and ravishing, including Matisse's Portrait of a Woman from 1908
and his joyful Landscape at Collioure from 1905.
Here are the Steins at home – with Matisse seated in the center, and his paintings hung high on the wall. What a fantastic time to live in Paris.
Afterward Jane and I headed downtown and sat in Union Square for a bit while she had an ice cream cone. I said, "What was your favorite thing today?" She said, "The self portrait by Matisse."
Jane has a good eye.
I said one of my favorite things were the photographs that showed the Steins' homes. Here is a picture by Man Ray of Alice B. Toklas standing and Gertrude Stein seated in their apartment at 27, Rue de Fleuris from 1922. I love the art covering the walls and the simple heavy wooden furniture and the light coming through the interior windows.
What a wonderful way to live.