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Gertrude Stein: Still Controversial
by

Arnie Greenberg

I have followed the career, writings and videos about Gertrude Stein for over 50 years. I have visited her homes and read everything she wrote or about her. She was for all this time my ‘passion’. I lectured on her work and had a play produced about her life and association with great artists and writers.

Recently, she has returned to the public eye, both in France and in the United States. I am not alone in keeping her memory alive. Hans Gallos, an aficionado, in San Francisco runs a museum dedicated to Gertrude and Alice B Toklas. There is an exhibition in San Francisco, another coming to New York and another going on through the fall at the Musee du Bugey-Valromez at the foot of the Grand Colombier Mountain that also shadowed Gertrude’s home in Culoz France. In France, there are museums with the same artistic themes at Bresse, Revermont and at the Musee d’Histoire de la Resistance et Dep’t de/Ain et Haute Jura. Even Dominique Saint-Pierre will be lecturing on Gertrude Stein in late October


At Gertrude’s Paris Apt.

But there is still controversy. Since her writing was cyclical at repetitive, was she a great writer? Since she collected Picassos, did she create interest in him that led to his success? What part, if any, did she play in the war?

Let me try to set a few things strait, as I see them.

Gertrude was not an easy person. Some say she only related to those who could help her. I don’t think that’s completely true but because of her ambitious nature, she did seek help wherever she could.

She could turn on people which she often did. The two best examples are Hemingway, who appeared at her home one night in a drunken state. “You leave here…and never come back,” she said. He didn’t but later in his like he wrote” I had two teachers, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Pound was occasionally right but Gertrude was always right.”

She turned against Ezra Pound too. He fell out of a favorite chair at her home, and broke it. She refused to invite him back again. Was it because of the chair or was it his anti-Jewish ideals?

She could turn on people which she often did. The two best examples are Hemingway, who appeared at her home one night in a drunken state. “You leave here…and never come back,” she said. He didn’t but later in his like he wrote” I had two teachers, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Pound was occasionally right but Gertrude was always right.”

 

She turned against Ezra Pound too. He fell out of a favorite chair at her home, and broke it. She refused to invite him back again. Was it because of the chair or was it his anti-Jewish ideals?

She had a special understanding of Picasso and hung the portrait he did of her in her gallery. Today, it is in New York at the Metropolitan Museum for all to see. Yes, she sponsored him as she did Matisse (through her brother and sister in law) and she adored Juan Gris.

When Gris died, at an early age, Gertrude went into mourning. She saw nobody until a few days later when Picasso arrived. “But I was the first cubist painter,” he argued. “Why are you so bereaved by his death?”

Gertrude replied. “You were the first to try cubism, but Gris was the best.” Yes, she could say that to Picasso. Their friendship remained.

But lately she reappeared in Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris. She is almost glanced over and not a main character. But in San Francisco, there were demonstrations and placard waving people outside the museum. They argued that Gertrude was a collaborator. I argue that she was certainly not.

Here are a few examples of my thinking.

When Gertrude lived at Bilignin, the Putz family who owned the building tried to get her to move out. She refused and they took her to court. Why wasn’t she arrested as a Jew and a foreigner? Someone in the mayor’s office or legal system did not have her name on the list of foreigners and/or Jews. She actually lost the case and was forced to move to nearby Culoz.

Then she moved to Culoz. Why was a statue of her unveiled on the property by well-known members of the underground who hid in the Grand Colombier, behind her home? These patriots said that they were receiving anti-Nazi information from her regularly.

  Clos Poncet at base of Grand Colomier Gertrude’s Home

Why did the German army billet soldiers in the home of a Jew? She was not arrested and stayed in her rooms while they were there? Surely, they didn’t know who she was or they would have deported her.

Why did Edward R Murrow drive all the way to Culoz to interview her when the Nazis retreated? She was a patriot, a symbol of America.

When she crossed the busy streets of Paris without crossing at a corner, she said, “They wouldn’t hit me. I’m Gertrude Stein.”

When told it might be better to cross over into nearby Switzerland when the Nazis came into her area, she refused. I think it’s because she could be a help to the allies. It was her destiny.

Gertrude collected art and wrote countless books, articles, poems and even an opera. She was the backbone of American literature during her time. I still hold her memory with reverence.

My suggestion is that you attend some of the exhibitions and learn more. She was difficult but she was also a great influence.

Bravo!

Musee Locieu Exhibition Gertrude Stein et le Bugey 192 1944

June 18-Nov.1

Tel: 04 79 87 5223

4 Euros for adults

No charge up to 26 years old…Reduction for groups… Free the first Sunday of each month

Recent publication Write for Info.

ARNIE GREENBERG               

You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at

Email:  Ultours1@gmail.com

Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to:  www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at ultours1@gmail.com.

(More about the writer.)

 

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