Gertrude Stein in pictures
Wanda Corn and Tirza True Latimer's Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (the catalog and exhibition) makes a compelling case for Stein as the genius (or possibly genie) behind the many portraits of her, which Corn sees as a striking act of self-fashioning – creating a remarkably legible body of work, popular and iconic, to accompany her allegedly illegible writing. Before hearing Corn's lecture in Paris last year, as part of the Stein Collects show, I hadn't thought of the portraits as a discrete body of work. But now I am convinced that Stein recognized the significance of the photographs, paintings, and sculptures for putting into views a set of identities that are as much a part of her work as The Making of Americans. With that in mind, Corn was able to identify distinct sets of images and it is apparent that Stein recomposed her image over her lifetime. There has been a fair amount written about Stein as celebrity. What interests me here, though, is something slightly different: Stein as image fabricator, who used the portrait as a way of supplementing her writing (in a similar way to how The Autobiography works in tandem with its looking glass other, "Stanzas in Meditation"). Stein was acutely engaged with verbal portraiture, from her early word portraits on (and in the Making of Americans as well). These images, created for widely different purposes by many different artists and journalists, became, for Stein, portraits by other means.
The Stein portraits collection by Renate Stendhal is the pioneering work on this subject. It has many more photos than are presented here or are otherwise on-line and which established the significance of this body of work.
Corn and Latimer have selected key images for the web site of the show, so the first thing to view is their five sets of Stein portraits. The photos here are meant to supplement that primary collection. I put this page together as I work on the syllabus for my graduate seminar this Spring, which is on the Poetics of Identity (textual – aesthetic – social – technological).
Alvin Langdon, 1913
Jacques Lipchitz, 1920
Man Ray photo 1922 (exact resemblance of exact resemblance):
1926 (SF MoMA)
Sept. 11, 1933
Carl Van Vechten, 1934
other Van Vechtem portaits here (LOC)
Cecil Beaton, mid-1930s
Francis Rose, 1939
Francis Rose, Homage to Stein, 1948
David Levine (1971)
Ray Johnson, 1975
Faith Ringgold, c. 1991
Deborah Kass, c. 1993