American expatriate writer Gertrude Stein was a high priestess of early-twentieth-century modernism for the many who visited her fabled Paris apartment. She collected and promoted the art of the avant-garde, including that of Picasso and Matisse, and her own abstract, repetitive prose inspired the experiments of playwrights, composers, poets, and painters.“There was an eternal quality about her,” sculptor Jo Davidson wrote. “She somehow symbolized wisdom.” He chose to depict her here as “a sort of modern Buddha.” Delighted by the sculpture, Stein composed one of her famous prose portraits of Davidson, later published in Vanity Fair alongside a photograph of this work.
Wendy Wick Reaves, curator at the National Portrait Gallery, recently discussed Gertrude Stein and her portrait by Jo Davidson. The sculpture is on view at the National Portrait Gallery in the exhibition “Twentieth-Century Americans” on the museum’s third floor.
Listen to Wendy Wick Reaves' Face-to-Face talk on Gertrude Stein (22:43)
Face-to-Face occurs every Thursday evening at the National Portrait Gallery. The next talk is tomorrow (April 8), when Warren Perry, writer and researcher at NPG, speaks about Elvis Presley. The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.