For The Love Of Gertrude Stein: Matisse-Picasso Exhibition Opens In Paris

The rivalry between painters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso is at the heart of an exhibition entitled "The Stein Family," currently showing at the Grand Palais in Paris, through Jan. 16.

Picasso's 1906 portrait of Gertrude Stein
Picasso's 1906 portrait of Gertrude Stein
Philippe Dagen

PARIS -- Just like a 19th century English novel, a tale about the Stein family must start with some geneaology. Milly and Daniel Stein lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1865, Milly gave birth to her first son, Michael. In 1872 Leo was born, followed two years later by a daughter, Gertrude. A bit later on, the family - thanks to its wealth - was able to live for some time in Paris. After 1891, when Michael replaced his father in managing the Omnibus Railway and Cable Company in San Francisco, the family's fortune grew so great that they didn't have to work anymore.

These young Americans, well-bred and well-educated, were attracted to Old Europe, traveled there, and ended up renting houses in Italy and France. Appreciating the old and new alike, they drifted among the continent's museums to antique shops.

But it was in 1903 that we can trace the story behind a much anticipated exhibition currently on display in Paris. That was the year Leo Stein bought his first work by Paul Cezanne, and when Gertrude joined him in Paris at 27 rue de Fleurus, an address that was to become famous – just like Gertrude Stein herself.

Stein is the author of several major books of American literature, such as The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (named after her companion). She also befriended artists Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. For both she was a confidante, and a passionate collector of their works.

For 10 years, from 1904 to 1914, Gertrude and her brothers Leo and Michael, together with the latter's wife, Sarah, were the most active and prominent experts of Parisian avant-garde, fauvism and cubism. "The Stein Family" exhibition at Paris' Grand Palais is focused on this decade.

As unbelievable as it seems, in 1910, you only needed to take a short walk in the 6th arrondissement, from rue de Fleurus to rue Madame, where Sarah and Michael lived, to be able to admire Matisse's "Woman with a Hat," the "Blue Nude," and a number of landscapes of Collioure. You could also find Picasso's wonderful "Boy Leading a Horse," his 1906 portrait of Gertrude, a dozen studies for "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," and other remarkable cubist still-lifes. Sometimes, particularly on Saturday evenings, the painters themselves could be found there.

Receptions at rue de Fleurus quickly became a mandatory rite of initiation for whomever wanted to understand art and modern literature. While listening to Leo's reputedly eloquent comments, or Gertrude's more concise ones, visitors could admire Cezanne's work – apples, bathers and the portrait of "Madame Cezanne in a red armchair," Bonnard's "Siesta," erotic paintings and Vallotton's "Le Grand Nu," an anti-erotic painting. Two Gauguins and a Manet complete the precursors' section. The collection deliberately follows a chronology of modern art.

Dueling painters

The whole artistic scene swiftly became dominated by the Matisse and Picasso face-off, which was both a power struggle and an artistic boxing match. From 1906 on, the two painters played a simple and rather brutal game: the question was to know who would have the most emblematic canvas in the most emblematic place in the homes of the Stein family – not necessarily the largest canvas, but the most powerful, the one that would relegate its rival to the second position. So, Picasso painted a portrait of Gertrude and one of Leo. Matisse would soon paint Sarah and Michael, as well as make two portraits of their son, Allan. He felt at home with the Steins, and Sarah worshiped him almost mystically. But from 1907 on, at rue de Fleurus, Picasso was king.

All the way up to the strikingly modern house that Le Corbusier built for them in 1926, Sarah and Michael kept the habit of being avant-garde, scandalizing the fanatics of purism who wondered what modern furniture was doing in the white rooms of the Vaucresson villa. Building a replica of the rue de Fleurus house or the rue Christine apartment, where Alice and Gertrude moved in 1938, was out of the question for the museum. But an important part of the Stein style is lost in this presentation.

Nowadays, reuniting the paintings shown at the Stein homes over a decade means borrowing from private and public collections in North America, France and Switzerland. Their prodigious collection resisted neither the disputes nor the inexorable erosion of the family fortune, nor the soaring prices of Matisse and Picasso's work. The Steins created a paradox: by defending and advertizing their idols, the Steins ended up no longer being able to afford them. What Gertrude was still able to buy in 1912 or 1913, either via the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, or by exchanging paintings, was out of her reach 10 years later.

In the interwar period, her books and speaking tours in the United States, despite providing her with a growing glory, did not allow her to reach the level of the new incredibly wealthy American collectors – people like Barnes, Guggenheim or Rockefeller. Picabia, for whom she had a late revelation in the 1930s, was already a little expensive for her. Therefore, from time to time, Gertrude would sell a masterpiece. The title cards in the exposition helpfully state when these separations took place. Only one painter escaped this fate and continue to reign until the death of Gertrude Stein in 1946 – It was, of course, Pablo Picasso.

Read the original article in French

Photo –jmussuto

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!