Gertrude Stein is Gertrude Stein is…

Day 272 of Colourisation Project – February 3

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born in Pennsylvania, this day, February 3, 1874, Gertrude Stein was an American expatriate novelist, poet, feminist, and playwright. An eccentric, and self-styled genius, she broke with the narrative, linear conventions of 19th-century and is regarded as a literary innovator and pioneer of Modernist literature. Stein was a prolific writer and her point of difference was her radical, uncompromising writing style, expressed through a stream of abstract, highly syncopated poems and off-beat prose.

Photographer ~ Carl Van Vechten ~ Gertrude Stein 1935 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Stein moved to Paris in 1903 at the age of 29, with Alice B. Toklas her life partner and secretary, and together made France their home for the rest of their lives. Along with her brother Leo, an art critic and painter, they took an apartment on the Left Bank. Their home, 27 rue de Fleurus, soon became a hub for members of the avant garde artistic and literary set, which included such luminaries as Henri Matisse, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, and Guillaume Apollinaire.

Stein was its lynchpin hostess and inspiration to other American expatriates such as Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But it was her 1933 memoir, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, (actually Stein’s own autobiography), a bestseller written in the voice of Toklas, that catapaulted her from the relative obscurity of literary cult figure to the literary mainstream.

A catalyst in the development of modernist art and literature, Stein still remains one of the most influential voices of American Literature. A literary legend in her own lifetime, she was far from modest in her self-estimation: “Einstein was the creative philosophic mind of the century, and I have been the creative literary mind of the century.”

Stein is credited with coining the term the Lost Generation, the generation that came of age during World War I and was popularized by Ernest Hemingway. It included distinguished artists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, Waldo Peirce, Isadora Duncan, Abraham Walkowitz, Alan Seeger, and Erich Maria Remarque.

Stein died at the age of 72 from stomach cancer in Neuilly-sur-Seine on July 27, 1946, and was interred in Paris in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Stein named today’s photographer, Carl Van Vechten as her literary executor. He helped to publish her works that remained unpublished at the time of her death.

Before she died, Gertrude Stein asked Alice B. Toklas, “What is the answer?” Toklas did not respond, so Gertrude Stein asked “In that case, what is the question?”


“They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.”  Gertrude Stein ~ Miss Furr and Miss Skeene 1911

[This story about two lesbians, written in 1911, and published in Vanity Fair magazine in July 1923, is generally considered to be the origin of the use of the term “gay” for “homosexual”, though it was not used in this sense in the story.]

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