In Words and Pictures
Gertrude Stein, famous for her words, was as interested in being seen as she was in being read. She posed for thousands of photographs during her lifetime–snapshots and studio photos by some of the twentieth century’s most famous image makers, including Cecil Beaton, Imogen Cunningham, and Man Rae. Renate Stendhal has selected three hundred and sixty photographs–more than a hundred seen her for the first time–of Gertrude Stein, her companion Alice B. Toklas, and the many familiar and famous faces who surrounded her. These photographs, artfully matched with texts from Stein’s work, present a new form of biography and make up a distinctive new portrait of the mother of modernism in the expatriate circles of 1920s Paris.
“Who was Gertrude Stein? The social and artistic dominatrix of the lost generation? The literary founder of modernism? The sensual companion of Alice B. Toklas? ‘Dictator of Art?’ An ‘infant prodigy?’ Stein, whose freedom with the written word, “liberated language from the 19th Century,” remains a heroine hard to grasp. Now, as the Century turns, Renate Stendhal’s Gertrude Stein: In Words and Pictures . . . takes a good look at the slippery genius. After an astonishing, playful essay, the book opens into a revelatory combination of quotes, clips, and 360 photos of Stein and her wildly brilliant circle. The subtle minimalism of Stein’s cool face, repeating page to page, like her own rhythmic sentences, brings a nuanced embodiment to our incomplete sense of her. From a serious, chin-in-air profile of “Gertie” at age three, to a chin-in-hands portrait taken at age 72, the woman is “a rose is a rose is a rose.” Bethany Schneider, Elle Debbie Reagan, Bay Area Young Adult Librarians
Thanks to a deep, and astute understanding of Gertrude Stein’s life and work, Berkeley writer Renate Stendhal has created a welcome and beautifully designed photo-biography of this most amazing Mother of Modernism . . . No matter how little or how much you know about Stein and her long time companion and lover, Alice B. Toklas, this slick, thick and nearly square . . . book can be read on several levels at once. More than a hundred of its 360 photographs have never been published . . . (F)or many, of course, reading Gertrude Stein is far more difficult than looking at pictures, and here Stendhal becomes both welcome advocate and critic. She acknowledges that speaking German, French, English and Yiddish helps, but she also believes “Stein’s work seems less and less alien” as we learn more “about the multi-lingual context of her writing,” and “the erotic side of her life. . . .” [The book] will endure as long as the words and images of Stein herself. Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle
The amateur . . . could hardly wish for a better introduction than Ms. Stendhal’s ingenious marrying of newly discovered and well-known photographs, with familiar and unfamiliar texts; together, they amply illuminate both the public and the private Stein. The New York Times
. . . (T)he focus of this entertaining book is not on Stein’s friends, followers, and victims, but on Stein herself, in all her imposing and androgynous glory . . . Stendhal’s own commentary, excellent selection of . . . photographs, and well-chosen quotes from Stein’s books and the writings of those who knew her, create an animated and illuminating portrait. After all, Stein is a Stein is a Stein . . . .BookList
Renate Stendhal has added a very interesting addition to the vast body of writing about Gertrude Stein. Stein was friends with the elite of 20th Century western culture. Her guests, when she lived in Paris, would include, among many others, Picasso and Hemingway. Her fierce independence and powerful personality drew all of the best to seek out her company . . . . Although everyone has seen some photographs of Stein, few Stein fans will be able to resist this collection . . . Stendhal has organized the photographs chronologically by dividing her life into nine periods. Each period is a chapter of words and photographs introduced by an account of Stein’s life during that period. These introductions are indispensable. Each photograph is accompanied by selections from Stein’s volumes . . . It’s a coffee table book suitable for Stein fans and anyone who is curious about 20th century culture. QUEEREVIEW