Inside Gertrude Stein's Salon

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Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd Street; 212- 535-7710 or metmuseum.org.

Tuesday through June 3. Schedule: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Recommended admission: $25, seniors $17, students $12.

Call it a vindication for Gertrude Stein. When Woody Allen gave his producer (and younger sister) Letty Aronson the script for "Midnight in Paris," she was skeptical that today's movie audience would connect with a film centered on the Parisian demimonde of the 1920s.

"I don't think a lot of people even know Gertrude Stein, and certainly not Man Ray," she told him.

Instead, the movie has become Allen's top-grossing movie ever and is up for Best Picture at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony.

In it, a disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter is transported back to Paris in the '20s. He brushes shoulders with such Jazz Age luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and photographer Man Ray. Key scenes take place in the art-packed studio of Stein, whose Saturday evening salons are art-world legend.

Now that famous salon is the focus of an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde." It takes visitors on its own time- travel journey into the lives of not only Gertrude Stein, but brothers Leo and Michael and sister-in-law Sarah.

The studio at 27, rue de Fleurus was small - a mere 460 square feet - with an adjacent apartment. Leo, a restless intellectual who left medical school in America to become a fledgling artist in Paris, was first on the scene in 1902. Gertrude, also a former medical student, now turned writer, joined him the following year. With money from a family business, they first collected work by established artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin and Bonnard. When these paintings became too expensive, they turned to canvases by Matisse, which cost only about $100, and those by the even younger Picasso, which could be had for a mere $50. …