January 17, 2008
Gertrude Stein, The Big Bear Buddha of Bryant Park
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"In a large studio in Paris, hung with paintings by Renoir, Matisse and Picasso, Gertrude Stein is doing with words what Picasso is doing with paint. She is impelling language to induce new states of consciousness, and in doing so language becomes with her a creative art rather than a mirror of history."
- from SPECULATIONS, OR POST-IMPRESSIONS IN PROSE by Mabel Dodge (Arts and Decoration, March, 1913). Dodge's essay on the modernist, experimental writing of Gertrude Stein helped popularize the author in the United States. The essay was published and distributed at the 1913 Armory Show, the landmark blockbuster exhibition that introduced European modernism to New York.
Gertrude Stein and Mabel Dodge had frequent misunderstandings and did not always get along. At one point Dodge asked Gertrude's brother, Leo, why Gertrude seemed so distant, and according to Dodge, "he laughed and said because there was a doubt in her mind about who was the bear and who was leading the bear!" (Mabel Dodge Luhan, Movers and Shakers. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1936.)
Image: Sculpture of Gertrude Stein, Bryant Park. On the right, behind Stein's left shoulder, is the base of the Radiator Building, the subject of one of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. The sculpture is a casting based on a 1923 model made in Paris by Jo Davidson (1883-1952).
Image by Walking Off the Big Apple, New York, New York. January 17, 2008. From this angle, Gertrude looks gigantic, but actually it's a modest life-size statue.
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