Pittsburgh Native Gertrude Stein Celebrated in Exhibits, Film

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SAN FRANCISCO - It's the summer of Gertrude Stein.

The expatriate art collector, poet and novelist (who would hate all these commas) died in 1946. But her image and influence are on display at two popular San Francisco exhibitions and in the hit Woody Allen film "Midnight in Paris."

The attention likely would have pleased Stein, always her own best publicist.

"She would have loved it," said Dara Solomon, assistant curator at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum, which through Sept. 6 will present "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories," an exhibition devoted to the visual presentation of Stein, who spent part of her childhood in Oakland, Calif.

The "Seeing Stein" curators drew from an extensive collection of papers and artifacts left by Stein to Yale University to help ensure her legacy.

Stein, who was born in Pittsburgh and moved to Vienna at age 3, trumpeted her contributions to modern art in the 1933 book "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas," which celebrates her friendships with Picasso and other important artists through the voice of Toklas, her longtime partner. Stein also cast an eye toward enduring fame when she left Picasso's famous 1906 portrait of her to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art -- the only piece of art she left to the Met.

"There is no question it had as much to do with ensuring her place in history as it did anything," said Janet Bishop, curator for paintings and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

For now, that portrait hangs at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of "The Steins Collect," an extraordinary display of works by Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir and others collected by Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael's wife, Sarah, during their many years in Paris.

Behind Stein's ego lay profound intellectual and artistic curiosity -- and great generosity.

"One of the things that is so unique about the Steins is the way they opened their homes to pretty much anybody," Bishop said of salons at the 27 rue de Fleurus apartment Gertrude shared with Leo, then Toklas, and at the home of Michael and Sarah Stein, San Franciscans who followed Leo and Gertrude to Paris. "It is one thing to be in the right place at the right time to pick extraordinary talents to collect, but, then, to share that was really extraordinary. It was such a generous way of fostering a visual culture."

Leo and Gertrude, who moved to Paris around the start of the 20th century, were early champions of Picasso, then in his early 20s and new to Paris. …