A Renowned Art Collection

 
 

Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo shared living quarters on the Left Bank of Paris at 27 rue de Fleurus from 1903 until 1914, when they dissolved their common household. Their residence, located near the Luxembourg Gardens, was a two-story building with adjacent studio. It was here they accumulated the works of art into a collection that would become renowned for its prescience and historical importance.

The joint collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein began in late 1904 when Michael Stein announced that their trust account had accumulated a balance of 8,000 francs. They spent this at Vollard’s Gallery, buying Paul Gauguin‘s Sunflowers and Three Tahitians, Paul Cézanne‘s Bathers, and two Renoirs.

Leo Stein cultivated important art world connections, enabling the Stein holdings to grow over time. Bernard Berenson hosted Gertrude and Leo in his English country house in 1902, facilitating their introduction to Paul Cézanne and Ambroise Vollard‘s art gallery.

The art collection increased and the walls at Rue de Fleurus were rearranged continually to make way for new acquisitions. In “the first half of 1905” the Steins acquired Cézanne’s Portrait of Mme Cézanne and Eugène Delacroix‘s Perseus and Andromeda. Shortly after the opening of the Salon d’Automne of 1905 (on October 18, 1905), the Steins acquired Henri Matisse‘s Woman with a Hat and Pablo Picasso‘s Young Girl with Basket of Flowers.

 
 

To watch some of the paintings mentioned in this post, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

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Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society

Self portrait with Bandaged Ear, Vincent van Gogh, January 1889

 
 

“One can speak of the good mental health of Van Gogh who, in his whole adult life, cooked only one of his hands and did nothing else except once to cut off his left ear, in a world in which every day one eats vagina cooked in green sauce or penis of newborn child whipped and beaten to a pulp, just as it is when plucked from the sex of its mother.

And this is not an image, but a fact abundantly and daily repeated and cultivated throughout the world. And this, however delirious this statement may seem, is how modern life maintains its old atmosphere of debauchery, anarchy, disorder, delirium, derangement, chronic insanity, bourgeois inertia, psychic anomaly (for it is not man but the world which has become abnormal), deliberate dishonesty and notorious hypocrisy, stingy contempt for everything that shows breeding. insistence on an entire order based on the fulfillment of a primitive injustice, in short, of organized crime.

Things are going badly because sick consciousness has a vested interest right now in not recovering from its sickness. This is why a tainted society has invented psychiatry to defend itself against the investigations of certain superior intellects whose faculties of divination would be troublesome. …In comparison with the lucidity of Van Gogh, which is a dynamic force, psychiatry is no better than a den of apes who are themselves obsessed and persecuted and who possess nothing to mitigate the most appalling states of anguish and human suffocation but a ridiculous terminology, worthy product of their damaged brains.

…I believe Gauguin thought the artist should look for the symbol and the myth and expand everything in life into a myth, whereas Van Gogh thought that we must know how to infer the myth from the most everyday things in life. For reality is greatly superior to every story, mythology, deity and super-reality. It is enough to have the genius to know how to interpret reality, which is something no painter had done before Van Gogh.

…I will tell you that Van Gogh is a painter because he has re- assembled nature, because he has, as it were, perspired it and made it sweat, because he has spurted on to his canvases in heaps, monumental with colours, the centuries-old struggle of elements, the terrible rudimentary pressure of apostrophes, stripes, commas and strokes, of which we must admit that, after him, natural appearances are made.

And how many repressed elbow movements, ocular shocks recorded from life, observations made in front of the subject, luminous currents of the forces which work on reality, were necessary to overthrow the barrier before being finally compressed, raised on to the canvas and accepted ? There are no ghosts in Van Gogh’s painting, no visions, no hallucinations. It is the torrid truth of the sun at two o’clock in the afternoon. But the suffering of the pre-natal is there.

It is nature, pure and naked, seen just as it conceals itself when we know how to get near enough to it.

…Van Gogh will have surely been the most genuine painter of all the painters, the only one who has not exceeded painting in so far as painting is both the strict means of his work and the strict limit of his means. On the other hand, he is absolutely the only painter who has completely exceeded painting as the passive act of representing nature, in order to pour out from this exclusive representation of nature a whirlpool force, an element torn out of the heart’s centre. Nothing but painting-no more: no philosophy, mysticism, ritual, psycliurgy or liturgy, no business with literature nor with poetry: these bronzed golden sunflowers are painted.

Better than any psychiatrist in the world, this is how the great Van Gogh has described his illness: ‘I break through, I lose again, I examine, I grip hold of, I loosen, my dead life conceals nothing, and, besides, the néant* has never done any harm to anyone, and what forces me to return to it is this distressing sense of absence, which passes by and sometimes drowns me, but I see very clearly into it; and I even know what the néant is, and I could tell you what is in it.’ Van Gogh was right. One can live for the infinite, only take pleasure in the infinite; there is enough infinite on the earth and in the stars to satiate a thousand great geniuses. If Van Gogh was unable to gratify his desire to suffuse his whole life with it, it is because society expressly and consciously forbade him.

… I will no longer put up with hearing someone say to me, as has so often happened, ‘Monsieur Artaud, you are raving’, without committing a crime. Van Gogh heard this said to him. And this is why that knot of blood which killed him twisted itself around his throat.”

Antonin Artaud

Excerpt from Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société

 
 

A few days before the opening of a Vincent van Gogh exhibition in Paris in 1947, gallery owner Pierre Loeb suggested that Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) write about the painter. Challenging the thesis of alienation, Artaud was determined to show how van Gogh’s exceptional lucidity made lesser minds uncomfortable. Wishing to prevent him from uttering certain “intolerable truths”, those who were disturbed by his painting drove him to suicide.

Note:
* Néant: Nothingness

The Perfect Vermilion

“Oh yes! he loved yellow, did good Vincent, the painter from Holland, gleams of sunlight warming his soul, which detested fog. A craving for warmth.

When the two of us were together in Arles, both of us insane, and constantly at war over beautiful colors, I adored red; where could I find a perfect vermilion? He, taking his yellowest brush, wrote on the suddenly purple wall:

I am of sound mind,

I am the Holy Ghost.”

Paul Gauguin

January 1894

 
 

Red-Headed Woman and Sunflowers, Paul Gauguin, 1890

Artist’s Room

Bedroom in Arles (La Chambre à Arles) is the title given to each of three similar paintings by 19th-century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh’s own title for this composition was simply The Bedroom (La Chambre à coucher). There are three authentic versions described in his letters, easily discernible from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

The painting depicts Van Gogh’s bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as his Yellow House. The door to the right was opening to the upper floor and the staircase; the door to the left served the guest room he held prepared for Gauguin. The window in the front wall was looking to Place Lamartine and its public gardens. This room was not rectangular but trapezoid with an obtuse angle in the left hand corner of the front wall and an acute angle at the right. Van Gogh evidently did not spend much time on this problem, he simply indicated that there was a corner, somehow.

 

Sketch from a letter to Theo

 

Van Gogh started the first version during mid October 1888 while staying in Arles, and explained his aims and means to his brother Theo:

This time it simply reproduces my bedroom; but colour must be abundant in this part, its simplification adding a rank of grandee to the style applied to the objects, getting to suggest a certain rest or dream. Well, I have thought that on watching the composition we stop thinking and imagining. I have painted the walls pale violet. The ground with checked material. The wooden bed and the chairs, yellow like fresh butter; the sheet and the pillows, lemon light green. The bedspread, scarlet coloured. The window, green. The washbasin, orangey; the tank, blue. The doors, lilac. And, that is all. There is not anything else in this room with closed shutters. The square pieces of furniture must express unswerving rest; also the portraits on the wall, the mirror, the bottle, and some costumes. The white colour has not been applied to the picture, so its frame will be white, aimed to get me even with the compulsory rest recommended for me. I have depicted no type of shade or shadow; I have only applied simple plain colours, like those in crêpes.

 

Sketch from a letter to Gauguin

 

Van Gogh included sketches of the composition in this letter as well as in a letter to Gauguin, written slightly later. In the letter, Van Gogh explained that the painting had come out of a sickness that left him bedridden for days. This version has on the wall to the right miniatures of Van Gogh’s portraits of his friends Eugène Boch and Paul-Eugène Milliet. The portrait of Eugène Boch is called The Poet and the portrait of Paul Eugène Milliet is called The Lover.

In April 1889, Van Gogh sent the initial version to his brother regretting that it was damaged by the flood of the Rhône while he was interned at the Old Hospital in Arles. Theo proposed to have it relined and sent back to him in order to copy it. This “repetition” in original scale (Van Gogh’s term was “répetition”) was executed in September 1889. Both paintings were then sent back to Theo.

 

First version, October 1888

 

Second version, September 1889.

 

Third version, end September 1889

 

Schiele’s Room in Neulengbach (Das Zimmer des Künstlers in Neulengbach), Egon Schiele, 1911

 

In his early years, Egon Schiele was strongly influenced by Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. Although imitations of their styles, particularly with the former, are noticeably visible in Schiele’s first works, he soon evolved into his own distinctive style. He also painted tributes to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers as well as landscapes and still lifes.

The Painters of Sunflowers

Le Peintre de Tournesols

 
 

In November 1888, Paul Gauguin painted Vincent van Gogh in The Painter of Sunflowers (Le Peintre de Tournesol). The two had been living together in a yellow house in the small town of Arles in southern France. Van Gogh, who had arrived in Arles first, painted a series of sunflowers to decorate the guest room in anticipation of Gauguin joining him. When Gauguin did arrive, he did indeed enjoy the paintings. After the two had parted ways, Gauguin wrote to Vincent requesting that he may keep one of the paintings, calling them a “perfect page of an essential ‘Vincent’ style.”

Being a portrait, it is a representation of a man in a specific time. By late November, tension was starting to develop between Gauguin and van Gogh. Two strong personalities living in such close quarters was taking its toll. Vincent especially was working at a feverish pace, producing paintings at a rate as high as anytime in his life. It was not long after this was painted that Vincent had one of his spells of madness, and the two parted ways never to see each other again. When van Gogh saw the painting, he wrote “My face has lit up after all a lot since, but it was indeed me, extremely tired and charged with electricity as I was then.”

Despite how the two ended their time together, Gauguin always liked Vincent and especially his sunflower paintings. Showing Vincent painting sunflowers, Gauguin is showing the essence of van Gogh. Reflecting on his own work and his painting of sunflowers, Vincent said “I indeed, before others, have taken the sunflower.” The sunflowers were painted for Gauguin with thoughts of the future in mind. They represent the start of something good, hope, and dreams coming to fruition. Gauguin knew this, and saw them as what was good in van Gogh. Gauguin liked van Gogh’s painting of sunflowers so much he owned three of them. The Painter of Sunflowers is Gauguin’s celebration of his friend and the amazing work he knew he was producing.

 
 

Sunflowers with Puvis de Chavannes’s Hope, Paul Gauguin, 1901, Private Collection

 
 

Still Life with Sunflowers on an Armchair, Paul Gauguin,1901, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 
 

Still Life with Sunflowers on an Armchair, Paul Gauguin, 1901, Private Collection

 
 

Still Life with Sunflowers and Mangoes, Paul Gauguin, 1901, Private Collection

 
 

Sunflowers are famously associated with Van Gogh. However, Vincent’s friend, colleague, and sometimes nemesis, Paul Gauguin, created his own interpretations of the golden floral symbol of southern France where Van Gogh and Gauguin once resided together.

Except that Gauguin painted his sunflowers in Tahiti in 1901 long after Van Gogh completed his final sunflower. For Vincent had decorated the walls of Gauguin’s bedroom with sunflowers in his honor back in 1888, when the two had shared Van Gogh’s tiny rented house in Arles. Yet, their days as roommates were limited and the relationship ended tragically when Vincent cut off his ear, signaling his descent into mental illness.

Although they never saw each other again, Van Gogh and Gauguin continued to correspond, exchanging letters up to Vincent’s death. Their mutual love and passion for art bonding the two, even during Vincent’s sojourn in a mental institution, where he continued to work, creating such masterpieces as Starry Night.

So let’s enjoy a mini-exhibition of sunflowers by the artists, beginning with the painting that started both Van Gogh and Gauguin on what could be considered their obsession with the subject. In this version by Vincent, he focuses on only two sunflowers, providing us with the almost startling close-up of the face of the one turned toward us. It was done in Paris in 1887, around the time Van Gogh met Gauguin, who had just returned from the Caribbean island of Martinque. To commemorate their new friendship, they exchanged paintings.

 
 

Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888, National Gallery, London

 
 

Gauguin never forgot that room and its glorious paintings, although when he wrote movingly about his experience years later, it was the London sunflowers he appeared to remember.

In my yellow room, sunflowers with purple eyes stand out on a yellow background; they bathe their stems in a yellow pot on a yellow table. In the corner of the painting, the signature of the painter: Vincent. And the yellow sun that passes through the yellow curtain of my room floods all this illumination with gold; and in the morning upon awakening from my bed, I imagine that all this smells very good.

Even when Gauguin moved to the exotic world of Tahiti, where he lived for most of the last decade of his life, the artist could not escape the memory of Vincent and his sunflowers. Ill, alone, and far from his native country of France, Gauguin probably spent his days dwelling on the past, particularly his time living with Van Gogh. For in October, 1898, close to ten years after his first viewing of the sunflowers that had filled the walls of his bedroom in Arles, Gauguin wrote to a friend to send him some sunflower seeds.

So in the midst of tropical Tahiti, Gauguin tended his garden of imported sunflowers until 1901, when he was ready to recreate them with his brush. Not one, but four canvases would result, as if Gauguin could not stop until he had fulfilled his own vision of the sunflowers.

Nothing But Big Flowers

“Now that I hope to live with Gauguin in a studio of our own, I want to make decorations for the studio. Nothing but big flowers.”

 
 

Sunflowers (original title, in French: Tournesols) are the subject of two series of still life paintings by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The earlier series executed in Paris in 1887 depicts the flowers lying on the ground, while the second set executed a year later in Arles shows bouquets of sunflowers in a vase. In the artist’s mind both sets were linked by the name of his friend Paul Gauguin, who acquired two of the Paris versions. About eight months later Van Gogh hoped to welcome and to impress Gauguin again with Sunflowers, now part of the painted décoration that he prepared for the guestroom of his Yellow House, where Gauguin was supposed to stay in Arles. After Gauguin’s departure, Van Gogh imagined the two major versions as wings of the Berceuse Triptych, and finally he included them in his exhibit at Les XX in Bruxelles.

Little is known of Van Gogh’s activities during the two years he lived with his brother Theo in Paris, 1886-1888. The fact that he had painted Sunflowers already is only revealed in spring 1889, when Gauguin claimed one of the Arles versions in exchange for studies he had left behind after leaving Arles for Paris. Van Gogh was upset and replied that Gauguin had absolutely no right to make this request: “I am definitely keeping my sunflowers in question. He has two of them already, let that hold him. And if he is not satisfied with the exchange he has made with me, he can take back his little Martinique canvas, and his self-portrait sent me from Brittany, at the same time giving me back both my portrait[3] and the two sunflower canvases which he has taken to Paris. So if he ever broaches this subject again, I’ve told you just how matters stand.”

The two Sunflowers in question show two buttons each; one of them was preceded by a small study, and a fourth large canvas combines both compositions.

These were Van Gogh’s first paintings with “nothing but sunflowers”—yet, he had already included sunflowers in still life and landscape earlier.

 
 

 
 

None meets the descriptions supplied by Van Gogh himself in his announcement of the series in every detail. The first version differs in size, is painted on a size 20 canvas—not on a size 15 canvas as indicated —and all the others differ in the number of flowers depicted from Van Gogh’s announcement. The second was evidently enlarged and the initial composition altered by insertion of the two flowers lying in the foreground, center and right. Neither the third nor the fourth shows the dozen or 14 flowers indicated by the artist, but more—fifteen or sixteen. These alterations are executed wet-in-wet and therefore considered genuine rework—even the more so as they are copied to the repetitions of January 1889; there is no longer a trace of later alterations, at least in this aspect.

 
 

First version: turquoise background

 
 

Second version: royal-blue background

 
 

Third version: blue green background

 
 

Fourth version: yellow background. Leaving aside the first two versions, all Arlesian Sunflowers are painted on size 30 canvases.

Portrait of a Mother

Anna Mathilda McNeill in Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Whistler’s Mother) James Abbott Whistler, 1871

 
 

Shushan Adoyan by Arshile Gorky, 1936

 
 

Cornelia Nobel in Woman I by Willem De Kooning, 1952

 
 

Ginevra de’ Pozzi by Guido Reni, 1612

 
 

Marguerite Merlet by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1860

 
 

Eugénie-Desirée Fournier by Édouard Manet, 1880

 
 

Ernestine Faivre by Georges Pierre Seurat, 1883

 
 

Marie-Francoise Oberson by  Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1838

 
 

Lucy Read by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797

 
 

Laura Catherine Bjølstad by Edvard Munch, 1899

 
 

Countess Adèle Tapié de Celeyran by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1883

 
 

Katherine Kelso Johnston by Mary Cassat, 1878

 
 

Sophie Maurice by Franz Marc, 1902

 
 

Marie Soukupová by Egon Schiele, 1911

 
 

Anna Cornelia Carbentus by Vincent van Gogh, 1888

 
 

Alina Maria Chazal by Paul Gauguin, 1890

 
 

Anne Elisabeth Honorine Aubert by Paul Cézanne, 1866-67

 
 

Barbara Holper by Albrecht Dürer, 1490-93

 
 

Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck by Rembrandt, 1630

 
 

Gemma Cervetto by Giorgio De Chirico, 1911

 
 

Elizabeth Griffiths Smith by Edward Hopper, 1916-20

 
 

Anne Mary Hill was the inspiration and model for Mother Tucking Children Into Bed by Norman Rockwell, 1921

 
 

María Picasso y López by Pablo Picasso, 1896

 
 

Laura in Mum by David Hockney, 1985

 
 

Lucie Brasch by Lucian Freud, 1983

 
 

María del Pilar Barrientos by Diego Rivera, circa 1904

 
 

Flora Angulo by Fernando Botero, 1990

 
 

Felipa Domenech Ferrés by Salvador Dalí, 1920

 
 

Julia by Andy Warhol, 1974

Charting the Course of Modern Art

Alfred H. Barr Jr., 1936. This chart illustrates the historical development, currents and crosscurrents of modern art

 
 

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., founding Director of The Museum of Modern Art, wrote in the introduction to the catalogue for Cubism and Abstract Art in March of 1936 that the exhibition was “intended as an historical survey of an important movement in modern art.” It was the first in a series of five exhibitions that were curated between 1936 and 1943 devoted to the principal movements in modern art. The series also included Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism and Romantic Painting in America.

 
 

From the Museum of Modern Art Archives

 
 

This chart, hand-drawn by Barr, was a working draft of the first version of the chart that would appear on the dust jacket of the catalogue for Cubism and Abstract Art. Barr reworked the chart a number times thereafter; he never considered it definitive.