Face-to-Face: Gertrude Stein portrait

About the Project

As part of the National Portrait Gallery's education program "Face-to-Face,” Wendy Wick Reaves, curator at NPG, discusses Gertrude Stein and her portrait by Jo Davidson. American expatriate writer Gertrude Stein was a high priestess of early-twentieth-century modernism for the many who visited her fabled Paris apartment. She collected and promoted the art of the avant-garde, including that of Picasso and Matisse, and her own abstract, repetitive prose inspired the experiments of playwrights, composers, poets, and painters. "There was an eternal quality about her," sculptor Jo Davidson wrote. "She somehow symbolized wisdom." He chose to depict her here as "a sort of modern Buddha." Delighted by the sculpture, Stein composed one of her famous prose portraits of Davidson, later published in Vanity Fair alongside a photograph of this work. The sculpture is on view at the National Portrait Gallery in the exhibition "Twentieth-Century Americans" on the museum's third floor. Recorded at NPG, March 25, 2010. Image: Gertrude Stein / Jo Davidson / Terra cotta, 1922-1923 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Dr. Maury Leibovitz. Face-to-Face talk currently located on the National Portrait Gallery's iTunesU page. [“Gertrude Stein” by Jo Davidson. NPG.78.196]

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