And so life in Paris began and as all roads lead to Paris, all of us are now there, and I can begin to tell what happened when I was of it.
When I first came to Paris a friend and myself stayed in a little hotel in the boulevard Saint–Michel, then we took a small apartment in the rue Notre–Dame-des-Champs and then my friend went back to California and I joined Gertrude Stein in the rue de Fleurus.
I had been at the rue de Fleurus every Saturday evening and I was there a great deal beside. I helped Gertrude Stein with the proofs of Three Lives and then I began to typewrite The Making of Americans. The little badly made french portable was not strong enough to type this big book and so we bought a large and imposing Smith Premier which at first looked very much out of place in the atelier but soon we were all used to it and it remained until I had an american portable, in short until after the war.
As I said Fernande was the first wife of a genius I was to sit with. The geniuses came and talked to Gertrude Stein and the wives sat with me. How they unroll, an endless vista through the years. I began with Fernande and then there were Madame Matisse and Marcelle Braque and Josette Gris and Eve Picasso and Bridget Gibb and Marjory Gibb and Hadley and Pauline Hemingway and Mrs. Sherwood Anderson and Mrs. Bravig Imbs and the Mrs. Ford Madox Ford and endless others, geniuses, near geniuses and might be geniuses, all having wives, and I have sat and talked with them all all the wives and later on, well later on too, I have sat and talked with all. But I began with Fernande.
I went too to the Casa Ricci in Fiesole with Gertrude Stein and her brother. How well I remember the first summer I stayed with them. We did charming things. Gertrude Stein and I took a Fiesole cab, I think it was the only one and drove in this old cab all the way to Siena. Gertrude Stein had once walked it with a friend but in those hot italian days I preferred a cab. It was a charming trip. Then another time we went to Rome and we brought back a beautiful black renaissance plate. Maddalena, the old italian cook, came up to Gertrude Stein’s bedroom one morning to bring the water for her bath. Gertrude Stein had the hiccoughs. But cannot the signora stop it, said Maddalena anxiously. No, said Gertrude Stein between hiccoughs. Maddalena shaking her head sadly went away. In a minute there was an awful crash. Up flew Maddalena, oh signora, signora, she said, I was so upset because the signora had the hiccoughs that I broke the black plate that the signora so carefully brought from Rome. Gertrude Stein began to swear, she has a reprehensible habit of swearing whenever anything unexpected happens and she always tells me she learned it in her youth in California, and as I am a loyal californian I can then say nothing. She swore and the hiccoughs ceased. Maddalena’s face was wreathed in smiles. Ah the signorina, she said, she has stopped hiccoughing. Oh no I did not break the beautiful plate, I just made the noise of it and then said I did it to make the signorina stop hiccoughing.
Gertrude Stein is awfully patient over the breaking of even her most cherished objects, it is I, I am sorry to say who usually break them. Neither she nor the servant nor the dog do, but then the servant never touches them, it is I who dust them and alas sometimes accidentally break them. I always beg her to promise to let me have them mended by an expert before I tell her which it is that is broken, she always replies she gets no pleasure out of them if they are mended but alright have it mended and it is mended and it gets put away. She loves objects that are breakable, cheap objects and valuable objects, a chicken out of a grocery shop or a pigeon out of a fair, one just broke this morning, this time it was not I who did it, she loves them all and she remembers them all but she knows that sooner or later they will break and she says that like books there are always more to find. However to me this is no consolation. She says she likes what she has and she likes the adventure of a new one. That is what she always says about young painters, about anything, once everybody knows they are good the adventure is over. And adds Picasso with a sigh, even after everybody knows they are good not any more people really like them than they did when only the few knew they were good.
I did have to take one hot walk that summer. Gertrude Stein insisted that no one could go to Assisi except on foot. She has three favourite saints, Saint Ignatius Loyola, Saint Theresa of Avila and Saint Francis. I alas have only one favourite saint, Saint Anthony of Padua because it is he who finds lost objects and as Gertrude Stein’s elder brother once said of me, if I were a general I would never lose a battle, I would only mislay it. Saint Anthony helps me find it. I always put a considerable sum in his box in every church I visit. At first Gertrude Stein objected to this extravagance but now she realises its necessity and if I am not with her she remembers Saint Anthony for me.
It was a very hot italian day and we started as usual about noon, that being Gertrude Stein’s favourite walking hour, because it was hottest and beside presumably Saint Francis had walked it then the oftenest as he had walked it at all hours. We started from Perugia across the hot valley. I gradually undressed, in those days one wore many more clothes than one does now, I even, which was most unconventional in those days, took off my stockings, but even so I dropped a few tears before we arrived and we did arrive. Gertrude Stein was very fond of Assisi for two reasons, because of Saint Francis and the beauty of his city and because the old women used to lead instead of a goat a little pig up and down the hills of Assisi. The little black pig was always decorated with a red ribbon. Gertrude Stein had always liked little pigs and she always said that in her old age she expected to wander up and down the hills of Assisi with a little black pig. She now wanders about the hills of the Ain with a large white dog and a small black one, so I suppose that does as well.
She was always fond of pigs, and because of this Picasso made and gave her some charming drawings of the prodigal son among the pigs. And one delightful study of pigs all by themselves. It was about this time too that he made for her the tiniest of ceiling decorations on a tiny wooden panel and it was an hommage a Gertrude with women and angels bringing fruits and trumpeting. For years she had this tacked to the ceiling over her bed. It was only after the war that it was put upon the wall.
But to return to the beginning of my life in Paris. It was based upon the rue de Fleurus and the Saturday evenings and it was like a kaleidoscope slowly turning.
What happened in those early years. A great deal happened.
As I said when I became an habitual visitor at the rue de Fleurus the Picassos were once more together, Pablo and Fernande. That summer they went again to Spain and he came back with some spanish landscapes and one may say that these landscapes, two of them still at the rue de Fleurus and the other one in Moscow in the collection that Stchoukine founded and that is now national property, were the beginning of cubism. In these there was no african sculpture influence. There was very evidently a strong Cézanne influence, particularly the influence of the late Cézanne water colours, the cutting up the sky not in cubes but in spaces.
But the essential thing, the treatment of the houses was essentially spanish and therefore essentially Picasso. In these pictures he first emphasised the way of building in spanish villages, the line of the houses not following the landscape but cutting across and into the landscape, becoming undistinguishable in the landscape by cutting across the landscape. It was the principle of the camouflage of the guns and the ships in the war. The first year of the war, Picasso and Eve, with whom he was living then, Gertrude Stein and myself, were walking down the boulevard Raspail a cold winter evening. There is nothing in the world colder than the Raspail on a cold winter evening, we used to call it the retreat from Moscow. All of a sudden down the street came some big cannon, the first any of us had seen painted, that is camouflaged. Pablo stopped, he was spell-bound. C’est nous qui avons fait ça, he said, it is we that have created that, he said. And he was right, he had. From Cézanne through him they had come to that. His foresight was justified.
But to go back to the three landscapes. When they were first put up on the wall naturally everybody objected. As it happened he and Fernande had taken some photographs of the villages which he had painted and he had given copies of these photographs to Gertrude Stein. When people said that the few cubes in the landscapes looked like nothing but cubes, Gertrude Stein would laugh and say, if you had objected to these landscapes as being too realistic there would be some point in your objection. And she would show them the photographs and really the pictures as she rightly said might be declared to be too photographic a copy of nature. Years after Elliot Paul at Gertrude Stein’s suggestion had a photograph of the painting by Picasso and the photographs of the village reproduced on the same page in transition and it was extraordinarily interesting. This then was really the beginning of cubism. The colour too was characteristically spanish, the pale silver yellow with the faintest suggestion of green, the colour afterwards so well known in Picasso’s cubist pictures, as well as in those of his followers.
Gertrude Stein always says that cubism is a purely spanish conception and only spaniards can be cubists and that the only real cubism is that of Picasso and Juan Gris. Picasso created it and Juan Gris permeated it with his clarity and his exaltation. To understand this one has only to read the life and death of Juan Gris by Gertrude Stein, written upon the death of one of her two dearest friends, Picasso and Juan Gris, both spaniards.
She always says that americans can understand spaniards. That they are the only two western nations that can realise abstraction. That in americans it expresses itself by disembodiedness, in literature and machinery, in Spain by ritual so abstract that it does not connect itself with anything but ritual.
I always remember Picasso saying disgustedly apropos of some germans who said they liked bull-fights, they would, he said angrily, they like bloodshed. To a spaniard it is not bloodshed, it is ritual.
Americans, so Gertrude Stein says, are like spaniards, they are abstract and cruel. They are not brutal they are cruel. They have no close contact with the earth such as most europeans have. Their materialism is not the materialism of existence, of possession, it is the materialism of action and abstraction. And so cubism is spanish.
We were very much struck, the first time Gertrude Stein and I went to Spain, which was a year or so after the beginning of cubism, to see how naturally cubism was made in Spain. In the shops in Barcelona instead of post cards they had square little frames and inside it was placed a cigar, a real one, a pipe, a bit of handkerchief etcetera, all absolutely the arrangement of many a cubist picture and helped out by cut paper representing other objects. That is the modern note that in Spain had been done for centuries.
Picasso in his early cubist pictures used printed letters as did Juan Gris to force the painted surface to measure up to something rigid, and the rigid thing was the printed letter. Gradually instead of using the printed thing they painted the letters and all was lost, it was only Juan Gris who could paint with such intensity a printed letter that it still made the rigid contrast. And so cubism came little by little but it came.
It was in these days that the intimacy between Braque and Picasso grew. It was in these days that Juan Gris, a raw rather effusive youth came from Madrid to Paris and began to call Picasso cher maitre to Picasso’s great annoyance. It was apropos of this that Picasso used to address Braque as cher maitre, passing on the joke, and I am sorry to say that some foolish people have taken this joke to mean that Picasso looked up to Braque as a master.
But I am once more running far ahead of those early Paris days when I first knew Fernande and Pablo.
In those days then only the three landscapes had been painted and he was beginning to paint some heads that seemed cut out in planes, also long loaves of bread.
At this time Matisse, the school still going on, was really beginning to be fairly well known, so much so that to everybody’s great excitement Bernheim jeune, a very middle class firm indeed, was offering him a contract to take all his work at a very good price. It was an exciting moment.
This was happening because of the influence of a man named Fénéon. Ii est très fin, said Matisse, much impressed by Fénéon. Fénéon was a journalist, a french journalist who had invented the thing called a feuilleton en deux lignes, that is to say he was the first one, to hit off the news of the day in two lines. He looked like a caricature of Uncle Sam made french and he had been painted standing in front of a curtain in a circus picture by Toulouse–Lautrec.
And now the Bernheims, how or wherefor I do not know, taking Fénéon into their employ, were going to connect themselves with the new generation of painters.
Something happened, at any rate this contract did not last long, but for all that it changed the fortunes of Matisse. He now had an established position. He bought a house and some land in Clamart and he started to move out there. Let me describe the house as I saw it.
This home in Clamart was very comfortable, to be sure the bath-room, which the family much appreciated from long contact with americans, although it must be said that the Matisses had always been and always were scrupulously neat and clean, was on the ground floor adjoining the dining room. But that was alright, and is and was a french custom, in french houses. It gave more privacy to a bath-room to have it on the ground floor. Not so long ago in going over the new house Braque was building the bath-room was again below, this time underneath the dining room. When we said, but why, they said because being nearer the furnace it would be warmer.
The grounds at Clamart were large and the garden was what Matisse between pride and chagrin called un petit Luxembourg. There was also a glass forcing house for flowers. Later they had begonias in them that grew smaller and smaller. Beyond were lilacs and still beyond a big demountable studio. They liked it enormously. Madame Matisse with simple recklessness went out every day to look at it and pick flowers, keeping a cab waiting for her. In those days only millionaires kept cabs waiting and then only very occasionally.
They moved out and were very comfortable and soon the enormous studio was filled with enormous statues and enormous pictures. It was that period of Matisse. Equally soon he found Clamart so beautiful that he could not go home to it, that is when he came into Paris to his hour of sketching from the nude, a thing he had done every afternoon of his life ever since the beginning of things, and he came in every afternoon. His school no longer existed, the government had taken over the old convent to make a Lycée of it and the school had come to an end.
These were the beginning of very prosperous days for the Matisses. They went to Algeria and they went to Tangiers and their devoted german pupils gave them Rhine wines and a very fine black police dog, the first of the breed that any of us had seen.
And then Matisse had a great show of his pictures in Berlin. I remember so well one spring day, it was a lovely day and we were to lunch at Clamart with the Matisses. When we got there they were all standing around an enormous packing case with its top off. We went up and joined them and there in the packing case was the largest laurel wreath that had ever been made, tied with a beautiful red ribbon. Matisse showed Gertrude Stein a card that had been in it. It said on it, To Henri Matisse, Triumphant on the Battlefield of Berlin, and was signed Thomas Whittemore. Thomas Whittemore was a bostonian archeologist and professor at Tufts College, a great admirer of Matisse and this was his tribute. Said Matisse, still more rueful, but I am not dead yet. Madame Matisse, the shock once over said, but Henri look, and leaning down she plucked a leaf and tasted it, it is real laurel, think how good it will be in soup. And, said she still further brightening, the ribbon will do wonderfully for a long time as hair ribbon for Margot.
The Matisses stayed in Clamart more or less until the war. During this period they and Gertrude Stein were seeing less and less of each other. Then after the war broke out they came to the house a good deal. They were lonesome and troubled, Matisse’s family in Saint–Quentin, in the north, were within the german lines and his brother was a hostage. It was Madame Matisse who taught me how to knit woollen gloves. She made them wonderfully neatly and rapidly and I learned to do so too. Then Matisse went to live in Nice and in one way and another, although remaining perfectly good friends, Gertrude Stein and the Matisses never see each other.
The Saturday evenings in those early days were frequented by many hungarians, quite a number of germans, quite a few mixed nationalities, a very thin sprinkling of americans and practically no english. These were to commence later, and with them came aristocracy of all countries and even some royalty.
Among the germans who used to come in those early days was Pascin. He was at that time a thin brilliant-looking creature, he already had a considerable reputation as maker of neat little caricatures in Simplicissimus, the most lively of the german comic papers. The other germans told strange stories of him. That he had been brought up in a house of prostitution of unknown and probably royal birth, etcetera.
He and Gertrude Stein had not met since those early days but a few years ago they saw each other at the vernissage of a young dutch painter Kristians Tonny who had been a pupil of Pascin and in whose work Gertrude Stein was then interested. They liked meeting each other and had a long talk.
Pascin was far away the most amusing of the germans although I cannot quite say that because there was Uhde.
Uhde was undoubtedly well born, he was not a blond german, he was a tallish thin dark man with a high forehead and an excellent quick wit. When he first came to Paris he went to every antiquity shop and bric-a-brac shop in the town in order to see what he could find. He did not find much, he found what purported to be an Ingres, he found a few very early Picassos, but perhaps he found other things. At any rate when the war broke out he was supposed to have been one of the super spies and to have belonged to the german staff.
He was said to have been seen near the french war office after the declaration of war, undoubtedly he and a friend had a summer home very near what was afterward the Hindenburg line. Well at any rate he was very pleasant and very amusing. He it was who was the first to commercialise the douanier Rousseau’s pictures. He kept a kind of private art shop. It was here that Braque and Picasso went to see him in their newest and roughest clothes and in their best Cirque Médrano fashion kept up a constant fire of introducing each other to him and asking each other to introduce each other.
Uhde used often to come Saturday evening accompanied by very tall blond good-looking young men who clicked their heels and bowed and then all evening stood solemnly at attention. They made a very effective background to the rest of the crowd. I remember one evening when the son of the great scholar Bréal and his very amusing clever wife brought a Spanish guitarist who wanted to come and play. Uhde and his bodyguard were the background and it came on to be a lively evening, the guitarist played and Manolo was there. It was the only time I ever saw Manolo the sculptor, by that time a legendary figure in Paris. Picasso very lively undertook to dance a southern spanish dance not too respectable, Gertrude Stein’s brother did the dying dance of Isadora, it was very lively, Fernande and Pablo got into a discussion about Frédéric of the Lapin Agile and apaches. Fernande contended that the apaches were better than the artists and her forefinger went up in the air. Picasso said, yes apaches of course have their universities, artists do not. Fernande got angry and shook him and said, you think you are witty, but you are only stupid. He ruefully showed that she had shaken off a button and she very angry said, and you, your only claim to distinction is that you are a precocious child. Things were not in those days going any too well between them, it was just about the time that they were quitting the rue Ravignan to live in an apartment in the boulevard Clichy, where they were to have a servant and to be prosperous.
But to return to Uhde and first to Manolo. Manolo was perhaps Picasso’s oldest friend. He was a strange spaniard. He, so the legend said, was the brother of one of the greatest pickpockets in Madrid. Manolo himself was gentle and admirable. He was the only person in Paris with whom Picasso spoke spanish. All the other spaniards had french wives or french mistresses and having so much the habit of speaking french they always talked french to each other. This always seemed very strange to me. However Picasso and Manolo always talked spanish to each other.
There were many stories about Manolo, he had always loved and he had always lived under the protection of the saints. They told the story of how when he first came to Paris he entered the first church he saw and there he saw a woman bring a chair to some one and receive money. So Manolo did the same, he went into many churches and always gave everybody a chair and always got money, until one day he was caught by the woman whose business it was and whose chairs they were and there was trouble.
He once was hard up and he proposed to his friends to take lottery tickets for one of his statues, everybody agreed, and then when everybody met they found they all had the same number. When they reproached him he explained that he did this because he knew his friends would be unhappy if they did not all have the same number. He was supposed to have left Spain while he was doing his military service, that is to say he was in the cavalry and he went across the border, and sold his horse and his accoutrement, and so had enough money to come to Paris and be a sculptor. He once was left for a few days in the house of a friend of Gauguin. When the owner of the house came, back all his Gauguin souvenirs and all his Gauguin sketches were gone. Manolo had sold them to Vollard and Vollard had to give them back. Nobody minded. Manolo was like a sweet crazy religiously uplifted spanish beggar and everybody was fond of him. Moréas, the greek poet, who in those days was a very well known figure in Paris was very fond of him and used to take him with him for company whenever he had anything to do. Manolo always went in hopes of getting a meal but he used to be left to wait while Moréas ate. Manolo was always patient and always hopeful although Moréas was as well known then as Guillaume Apollinaire was later, to pay rarely or rather not at all.
Manolo used to make statues for joints in Montmartre in return for meals etcetera, until Alfred Stieglitz heard of him and showed his things in New York and sold some of them and then Manolo returned to the french frontier, Céret and there he has lived ever since, turning night into day, he and his catalan wife.
But Uhde. Uhde one Saturday evening presented his fiancée to Gertrude Stein. Uhde’s morals were not all that they should be and as his fiancée seemed a very well to do and very conventional young woman we were all surprised. But it turned out that it was an arranged marriage. Uhde wished to respectabilise himself and she wanted to come into possession of her inheritance, which she could only do upon marriage. Shortly after she married Uhde and shortly after they were divorced. She then married Delaunay the painter who was just then coming into the foreground. He was the founder of the first of the many vulgarisations of the cubist idea, the painting of houses out of plumb, what was called the catastrophic school.
Delaunay was a big blond frenchman. He had a lively little mother. She used to come to the rue de Fleurus with old vicomtes who looked exactly like one’s youthful idea of what an old french marquis should look like. These always left their cards and then wrote a solemn note of thanks and never showed in any way how entirely out of place they must have felt. Delaunay himself was amusing. He was fairly able and inordinately ambitious. He was always asking how old Picasso had been when he had painted a certain picture. When he was told he always said, oh I am not as old as that yet. I will do as much when I am that age.
As a matter of fact he did progress very rapidly. He used to come a great deal to the rue de Fleurus. Gertrude Stein used to delight in him. He was funny and he painted one rather fine picture, the three graces standing in front of Paris, an enormous picture in which he combined everybody’s ideas and added a certain french clarity and freshness of his own. It had a rather remarkable atmosphere and it had a great success. After that his pictures lost all quality, they grew big and empty or small and empty. I remember his bringing one of these small ones to the house, saying, look I am bringing you a small picture, a jewel. It is small, said Gertrude Stein, but is it a jewel.
It was Delaunay who married the ex-wife of Uhde and they kept up quite an establishment. They took up Guillaume Apollinaire and it was he who taught them how to cook and how to live. Guillaume was extraordinary. Nobody but Guillaume, it was the italian in Guillaume, Stella the New York painter could do the same thing in his early youth in Paris, could make fun of his hosts, make fun of their guests, make fun of their food and spur them to always greater and greater effort.
It was Guillaume’s first opportunity to travel, he went to Germany with Delaunay and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
Uhde used to delight in telling how his former wife came to his house one day and dilating upon Delaunay’s future career, explained to him that he should abandon Picasso and Braque, the past, and devote himself to the cause of Delaunay, the future. Picasso and Braque at this time it must be remembered were not yet thirty years old. Uhde told everybody this story with a great many witty additions and always adding, I tell you all this sans discrétion, that is tell it to everybody.
The other german who came to the house in those days was a dull one. He is, I understand a very important man now in his own country and he was a most faithful friend to Matisse, at all times, even during the war. He was the bulwark of the Matisse school. Matisse was not always or indeed often very kind to him. All women loved him, so it was supposed. He was a stocky Don Juan. I remember one big Scandinavian who loved him and who would never come in on Saturday evening but stood in the court and whenever the door opened for some one to come in or go out you could see her smile in the dark of the court like the smile of the Cheshire cat. He was always bothered by Gertrude Stein. She did and bought such strange things. He never dared to criticise anything to her but to me he would say, and you, Mademoiselle, do you, pointing to the despised object, do you find that beautiful.
Once when we were in Spain, in fact the first time we went to Spain, Gertrude Stein had insisted upon buying in Cuenca a brand new enormous turtle made of Rhine stones, She had very lovely old jewellery, but with great satisfaction to herself she was wearing this turtle as a clasp. Purrmann this time was dumbfounded. He got me into a corner. That jewel, he said, that Miss Stein is wearing, are those stones real.
Speaking of Spain also reminds me that once we were in a crowded restaurant. Suddenly in the end of the room a tall form stood up and a man bowed solemnly at Gertrude Stein who as solemnly replied. It was a stray hungarian from Saturday evening, surely.
There was another german whom I must admit we both liked. This was much later, about nineteen twelve. He too was a dark tall german. He talked english, he was a friend of Marsden Hartley whom we liked very much, and we liked his german friend, I cannot say that we did not.
He used to describe himself as the rich son of a not so rich father. In other words he had a large allowance from a moderately poor father who was a university professor. Ronnebeck was charming and he was always invited to dinner. He was at dinner one evening when Berenson the famous critic of Italian art was there. Rönnebeck had brought with him some photographs of pictures by Rousseau. He had left them in the atelier and we were all in the dining room. Everybody began to talk about Rousseau. Berenson was puzzled, but Rousseau, Rousseau, he said, Rousseau was an honourable painter but why all this excitement. Ah, he said with a sigh, fashions change, that I know, but really I never thought that Rousseau would come to be the fashion for the young. Berenson had a tendency to be supercilious and so everybody let him go on and on. Finally Rönnebeck said gently, but perhaps Mr. Berenson, you have never heard of the great Rousseau, the douanier Rousseau. No, admitted Berenson, he hadn’t, and later when he saw the photographs he understood less than ever and was fairly fussed. Mabel Dodge who was present, said, but Berenson, you must remember that art is inevitable. That, said Berenson recovering himself, you understand, you being yourself a femme fatale.
We were fond of Rönnebeck and beside the first time he came to the house he quoted some of Gertrude Stein’s recent work to her. She had loaned some manuscript to Marsden Hartley. It was the first time that anybody had quoted her work to her and she naturally liked it. He also made a translation into german of some of the portraits she was writing at that time and thus brought her her first international reputation. That however is not quite true, Roché the faithful Roché had introduced some young germans to Three Lives and they were already under its spell. However Rönnebeck was charming and we were very fond of him.
Rönnebeck was a sculptor, he did small full figure portraits and was doing them very well, he was in love with an american girl who was studying music. He liked France and all french things and he was very fond of us. We all separated as usual for the summer. He said he had a very amusing summer before him. He had a commission to do a portrait figure of a countess and her two sons, the little counts and he was to spend the summer doing this in the home of the countess who had a magnificent place on the shores of the Baltic.
When we all came back that winter Rönnebeck was different. In the first place he came back with lots of photographs of ships of the german navy and insisted upon showing them to us. We were not interested. Gertrude Stein said, of course, Rönnebeck, you have a navy, of course, we americans have a navy, everybody has a navy, but to anybody but the navy, one big ironclad looks very much like any other, don’t be silly. He was different though. He had had a good time. He had photos of himself with all the counts and there was also one with the crown prince of Germany who was a great friend of the countess. The winter, it was the winter of 1913–1914, wore on. All the usual things happened and we gave as usual some dinner parties. I have forgotten what the occasion of one was but we thought Rönnebeck would do excellently for it. We invited him. He sent word that he had to go to Munich for two days but he would travel at night and get back for the dinner party. This he did and was delightful as he always was.
Pretty soon he went off on a trip to the north, to visit the cathedral towns. When he came back he brought us a series of photographs of all these northern towns seen from above. What are these, Gertrude Stein asked. Oh, he said, I thought you would be interested, they are views I have taken of all the cathedral towns. I took them from the tip top of the steeples and I thought you would be interested because see, he said, they look exactly like the pictures of the followers of Delaunay, what you call the earthquake school, he said turning to me. We thanked him and thought no more about it. Later when during the war I found them, I tore them up in a rage.
Then we all began to talk about our summer plans. Gertrude Stein was to go to London in July to see John Lane to sign the contract for Three Lives. Rönnebeck said, why don’t you come to Germany instead or rather before or immediately after, he said. Because, said Gertrude Stein, as you know I don’t like germans. Yes I know, said Rönnebeck, I know, but you like me and you would have such a wonderful time. They would be so interested and it would mean so much to them, do come, he said. No, said Gertrude Stein, I like you alright but I don’t like germans.
We went to England in July and when we got there Gertrude Stein had a letter from Rönnebeck saying that he still awfully wanted us to come to Germany but since we wouldn’t had we not better spend the summer in England or perhaps in Spain but not as we had planned come back to Paris. That was naturally the end. I tell the story for what it is worth.
When I first came to Paris there was a very small sprinkling of americans Saturday evenings, this sprinkling grew gradually more abundant but before I tell about americans I must tell all about the banquet to Rousseau.
In the beginning of my stay in Paris a friend and I were living as I have already said in a little apartment on the rue Notre–Dame-des-Champs. I was no longer taking french lessons from Fernande because she and Picasso were together again but she was not an infrequent visitor. Autumn had come and I can remember it very well because I had bought my first winter Paris hat. It was a very fine hat of black velvet, a big hat with a brilliant yellow fantaisie. Even Fernande gave it her approval.
Fernande was lunching with us one day and she said that there was going to be a banquet given for Rousseau and that she was giving it. She counted up the number of the invited. We were included. Who was Rousseau. I did not know but that really did not matter since it was to be a banquet and everybody was to go, and we were invited.
Next Saturday evening at the rue de Fleurus everybody was talking about the banquet to Rousseau and then I found out that Rousseau was the painter whose picture I had seen in that first independent. It appeared that Picasso had recently found in Montmartre a large portrait of a woman by Rousseau, that he had bought it and that this festivity was in honour of the purchase and the painter. It was going to be very wonderful.
Fernande told me a great deal about the menu. There was to be riz a la Valenciennes, Fernande had learnt how to cook this on her last trip to Spain, and then she had ordered, I forget now what it was that she had ordered, but she had ordered a great deal at Félix Potin, the chain store of groceries where they made prepared dishes. Everybody was excited. It was Guillaume Apollinaire, as I remember, who knowing Rousseau very well had induced him to promise to come and was to bring him and everybody was to write poetry and songs and it was to be very rigolo, a favourite Montmartre word meaning a jokeful amusement. We were all to meet at the café at the foot of the rue Ravignan and to have an aperitif and then go up to Picasso’s atelier and have dinner. I put on my new hat and we all went to Montmartre and all met at the cafe.
As Gertrude Stein and I came into the café there seemed to be a great many people present and in the midst was a tall thin girl who with her long thin arms extended was swaying forward and back. I did not know what she was doing, it was evidently not gymnastics, it was bewildering but she looked very enticing. What is that, I whispered to Gertrude Stein. Oh that is Marie Laurencin, I am afraid she had been taking too many preliminary apéritifs. Is she the old lady that Fernande told me about who makes noises like animals and annoys Pablo. She annoys Pablo alright but she is a very young lady and she has had too much, said Gertrude Stein going in. Just then there was a violent noise at the door of the café and Fernande appeared very large, very excited and very angry. Félix Potin, said she, has not sent the dinner. Everybody seemed overcome at these awful tidings but I, in my american way said to Fernande, come quickly, let us telephone. In those days in Paris one did not telephone and never to a provision store. But Fernande consented and off We went. Everywhere we went there was either no telephone or it was not working, finally we got one that worked but Felix Potin was closed or closing and it was deaf to our appeals. Fernande was completely upset but finally I persuaded her to tell me just what we were to have had from Félix Potin and then in one little shop and another little shop in Montmartre we found substitutes, Fernande finally announcing that she had made so much riz a la Valenciennes that it would take the place of everything and it did.
When we were back at the café almost everybody who had been there had gone and some new ones had come, Fernande told them all to come along. As we toiled up the hill we saw in front of us the whole crowd. In the middle was Marie Laurencin supported on the one side by Gertrude Stein and on the other by Gertrude Stein’s brother and she was falling first into one pair of arms and then into another, her voice always high and sweet and her arms always thin graceful and long. Guillaume of course was not there, he was to bring Rousseau himself after every one was seated.
Fernande passed this slow moving procession, I following her and we arrived at the atelier. It was rather impressive. They had gotten trestles, carpenter’s trestles, and on them had placed boards and all around these boards were benches. At the head of the table was the new acquisition, the Rousseau, draped in flags and wreaths and flanked on either side by big statues, I do not remember what statues. It was very magnificent and very festive. The riz a la Valenciennes was presumably cooking below in Max Jacob’s studio. Max not being on good terms with Picasso was not present but they used his studio for the rice and for the men’s overcoats. The ladies were to put theirs in the front studio which had been Van Dongen’s in his spinach days and now belonged to a frenchman by the name of Vaillant. This was the studio which was later to be Juan Gris’.
I had just time to deposit my hat and admire the arrangements, Fernande violently abusing Marie Laurencin all the time, when the crowd arrived. Fernande large and imposing, barred the way, she was not going to have her party spoiled by Marie Laurencin. This was a serious par y, a serious banquet for Rousseau and neither she nor Pab o would tolerate such conduct. Of course Pablo, all this time, was well out of sight in the rear. Gertrude Stein remonstrate she said half in english half in french, that she would be hanged if after the struggle of getting Marie Laurencin up that terrific hill it was going to be for nothing. No indeed and beside she reminded Fernande that Guillaume and Rousseau would be along any minute and it was necessary that every one should be decorously seated before that event. By this time Pablo had made his way to the front and he joined in and said, yes yes, and Fernande yielded. She was always a little afraid of Guillaume Apollinaire, of his solemnity and of his wit, and they all came in. Everybody sat down.
Everybody sat down and everybody began to eat rice and other things, that is as soon as Guillaume Apollinaire and Rousseau came in which they did very presently and were wildly acclaimed. How well I remember their coming. Rousseau a little small colourless frenchman with a little beard, like any number of frenchmen one saw everywhere. Guillaume Apollinaire with finely cut florid features, dark hair and a beautiful complexion. Everybody was presented and everybody sat down again. Guillaume slipped into a seat beside Marie Laurencin. At the sight of Guillaume, Marie who had become comparatively calm seated next to Gertrude Stein, broke out again in wild movements and outcries. Guillaume got her out of the door and downstairs and after a decent interval they came back Marie a little bruised but sober. By this time everybody had eaten everything and poetry began. Oh yes, before this Frederic of the Lapin Agile and the University of Apaches had wandered in with his usual companion a donkey, was given a drink and wandered out again. Then a little later some italian street singers hearing of the party came in. Fernande rose at the end of the table and flushed and her forefinger straight into the air said it was not that kind of a party, and they were promptly thrown out.
Who was there. We were there and Salmon, Andre Salmon, then a rising young poet and journalist, Pichot and Germaine Pichot, Braque and perhaps Marcelle Braque but this I do not remember, I know that there was talk of her at that time, the Raynals, the Ageros the false Greco and his wife, and several other pairs who I did not know and do not remember and Vaillant, a very amiable ordinary young frenchman who had the front studio.
The ceremonies began. Guillaume Apollinaire got up and made a solemn eulogy, I do not remember at all what he said but it ended up with a poem he had written and which he half chanted and in which everybody joined in the refrain, La peinture de ce Rousseau. Somebody else then, possibly Raynal, I don’t remember, got up and there were toasts, and then all of a sudden Andre Salmon who was sitting next to my friend and solemnly discoursing of literature and travels, leaped upon the by no means solid table and poured out an extemporaneous eulogy and poem. At the end he seized a big glass and drank what was in it, then promptly went off his head, being completely drunk, and began to fight. The men all got hold of him, the statues tottered, Braque, a great big chap, got hold of a statue in either arm and stood there holding them while Gertrude Stein’s brother another big chap, protected little Rousseau and his violin from harm. The others with Picasso leading because Picasso though small is very strong, dragged Salmon into the front atelier and locked him in. Everybody came back and sat down.
Thereafter the evening was peaceful. Marie Laurencin sang in a thin voice some charming old norman songs. The wife of Agero sang some charming old limousin songs, Pichot danced a wonderful religious spanish dance ending in making of himself a crucified Christ upon the floor. Guillaume Apollinaire solemnly approached myself and my friend and asked us to sing some of the native songs of the red indians. We did not either of us feel up to that to the great regret of Guillaume and all the company. Rousseau blissful and gentle played the violin and told us about the plays he had written and his memories of Mexico. It was all very peaceful and about three o’clock in the morning we all went into the atelier where Salmon had been deposited and where we had left our hats and coats to get them to go home. There on the couch lay Salmon peacefully sleeping and surrounding him, half chewed, were a box of matches, a petit bleu and my yellow fantaisie. Imagine my feelings even at three o’clock in the morning. However, Salmon woke up very charming and very polite and we all went out into the street together. All of a sudden with a wild yell Salmon rushed down the hill.
Gertrude Stein and her brother, my friend and I, all in one cab, took Rousseau home.
It was about a month later that one dark Paris winter afternoon I was hurrying home and felt myself being followed. I hurried and hurried and the footsteps drew nearer and I heard, mademoiselle, mademoiselle. I turned. It was Rousseau. Oh mademoiselle, he said, you should not be out atone after dark, may I see you home. Which he did.
It was not long after this that Kahnweiler came to Paris. Kahnweiler was a german married to a frenchwoman and they had lived for many years in England. Kahnweiler had been in England in business, saving money to carry out a dream of some day having a picture shop in Paris. The time had come and he started a neat small gallery in the rue Vignon. He felt his way a little and then completely threw in his lot with the cubist group. There were difficulties at first, Picasso always suspicious did not want to go too far with him. Fernande did the bargaining with Kahnweiler but finally they all realised the genuineness of his interest and his faith, and that he could and would market their work. They all made contracts with him and until the war he did everything for them all. The afternoons with the group coming in and out of his shop were for Kahnweiler really afternoons with Vasari. He believed in them and their future greatness. It was only the year before the war that he added Juan Gris. It was just two months before the outbreak of the war that Gertrude Stein saw the first Juan Gris paintings at Kahnweiler’s and bought three of them.
Picasso always says that he used in those days to tell Kahnweiler that he should become a french citizen, that war would come and there would be the devil to pay. Kahnweiler always said he would when he had passed the military age but that he naturally did not want to do military service a second time. The war came, Kahnweiler was in Switzerland with his family on his vacation and he could not come back. All his possessions were sequestrated.
The auction sale by the government of Kahnweiler’s pictures, practically all the cubist pictures of the three years before the war, was the first occasion after the war where everybody of the old crowd met. There had been quite a conscious effort on the part of all the older merchants, now that the war was over, to kill cubism. The expert for the sale, who was a well known picture dealer, had avowed this as his intention. He would keep the prices down as low as possible and discourage the public as much as possible. How could the artists defend themselves.
We happened to be with the Braques a day or two before the public show of pictures for the sale and Marcelle Braque, Braque’s wife, told us that they had come to a decision. Picasso and Juan Gris could do nothing they were spaniards, and this was a french government sale. Marie Laurencin was technically a german, Lipschitz was a russian at that time not a popular thing to be. Braque a frenchman, who had won the croix de guerre in a charge, who had been made an officer and had won the legion d’honneur and had had a bad head wound could do what he pleased. He had a technical reason too for picking a quarrel with the expert. He bad sent in a list of people likely to buy his pictures, a privilege always accorded to an artist whose pictures are to be publicly sold, and catalogues had not been sent to these people. When we arrived Braque had already done his duty. We came in just at the end of the fray. There was a great excitement.
Braque had approached the expert and told him that he had neglected his obvious duties. The expert had replied that he had done and would do as he pleased and called Braque a norman pig. Braque had hit him. Braque is a big man and the expert is not and Braque tried not to hit hard but nevertheless the expert fell. The police came in and they were taken off to the police station. There they told their story. Braque of course as a hero of the war was treated with all due respect, and when he spoke to the expert using the familiar thou the expert completely lost his temper and his head and was publicly rebuked by the magistrate. Just after it was over Matisse came in and wanted to know what had happened and was happening, Gertrude Stein told him. Matisse said, and it was a Matisse way to say it, Braque a raison, celui-là a vole la France, et on sait bien ce que c’est que voler la France.
As a matter of fact the buyers were frightened off and all the pictures eept those of Derain went for little. Poor Juan Gris whose pictures went for very little tried to be brave. They after all did bring an honourable price, he said to Gertrude Stein, but he was sad.
Fortunately Kahnweiler, who had not fought against France, was allowed to come back the next year. The others no longer needed him but Juan needed him desperately and Kahnweiler’s loyalty and generosity to Juan Gris all those hard years can only be matched by Juan’s loyalty and generosity when at last just before his death and he had become famous tempting offers from other dealers were made to him.
Kahnweiler coming to Paris and taking on commercially the cause of the cubists made a great difference to all of them. Their present and future were secure.
The Picassos moved from the old studio in the rue Ravignan to an apartment in the boulevard Clichy. Fernande began to buy furniture and have a servant and the servant of course made a soufflé. It was a nice apartment with lots of sunshine. On the whole however Fernande was not quite as happy as she had been. There were a great many people there and even afternoon tea. Braque was there a great deal, it was the height of the intimacy between Braque and Picasso, it was at that time they first began to put musical instruments into their pictures. It was also the beginning of Picasso’s making constructions. He made still Wes of objects and photographed them. He made paper constructions later, he gave one of these to Gertrude Stein. It is perhaps the only one left in existence.
This was also the time when I first heard of Poiret. He had a houseboat on the Seine and he had given a party on it and he had invited Pablo and Fernande. He gave Fernande a handsome rose-coloured scarf with gold fringe and Le also gave her a spun glass fantaisie to put on a hat, an entirely new idea in those days. This she gave to me and I wore it on a little straw pointed cap for years after. I may even have it now.
Then there was the youngest of the cubists. I never knew his name. He was doing his military service and was destined for diplomacy. How he drifted in and whether he painted I do not know. All I know is that he was known as the youngest of the cubists.
Fernande had at this time a new friend of whom she often spoke to me. This was Eve who was living with Marcoussis. And one evening all four of them came to the rue de Fleurus, Pablo, Fernande, Marcoussis and Eve. It was the only time we ever saw Marcoussis until many many years later.
I could perfectly understand Fernande’s liking for Eve. As I said Fernande’s great heroine was Evelyn Thaw, small and negative. Here was a little french Evelyn Thaw, small and perfect.
Not long after this Picasso came one day and told Gertrude Stein that he had decided to take an atelier in the rue Ravignan. He could work better there. He could not get I back his old one but he took one on the lower floor. One day we went to see him there. He was not in and Gertrude Stein as a joke left her visiting card. In a few days we went again and Picasso was at work on a picture on which was written ma jolie and at the lower corner painted in was Gertrude Stein’s visiting card. As we went away Gertrude Stein said, Fernande is certainly not ma jolie, I wonder who it is. In a few days we knew. Pablo had gone off with Eve.
This was in the spring. They all had the habit of going to Céret near Perpignan for the summer probably on account of Manolo, and they all in spite of everything went there again. Fernande was there with the Pichots and Eve was there with Pablo. There were some redoubtable battles and then everybody came back to Paris.
One evening, we too had come back, Picasso came in. He and Gertrude Stein had a long talk alone. It was Pablo, she said when she came in from having bade him goodbye, and he said a marvellous thing about Fernande, he said her beauty always held him but he could not stand any of her little ways. She further added that Pablo and Eve were now settled on 4 boulevard Raspail and we would go and see them to-morrow.
In the meanwhile Gertrude Stein had received a letter from Fernande, very dignified, written with the reticence of a frenchwoman. She said that she wished to tell Gertrude Stein that she understood perfectly that the friendship had always been with Pablo and that although Gertrude had always shown her every mark of sympathy and affection now that she and Pablo were separated, it was naturally impossible that in the future there should be any intercourse between them because the friendship having been with Pablo there could of course be no question of a choice. That she would always remember their intercourse with pleasure and that she would permit herself, if ever she were in need, to throw herself upon Gertrude’s generosity.
And so Picasso left Montmartre never to return.
When I first came to the rue de Fleurus Gertrude Stein was correcting the proofs of Three Lives. I was soon helping her with this and before very long the book was published. I asked her to let me subscribe to Romeike’s clipping bureau, the advertisement for Romeike in the San Francisco Argonaut having been one of the romances of my childhood. Soon the clippings began to come in.
It is rather astonishing the number of newspapers that noticed this book, printed privately and by a perfectly unknown person. The notice that pleased Gertrude Stein most was in the Kansas City Star. She often asked then and in later years who it was who might have written it but she never found out. It was a very sympathetic and a very understanding review. Later on when she was discouraged by what others said she would refer to it as having given her at that time great comfort. She says in Composition and Explanation, when you write a thing it is perfectly clear and then you begin to be doubtful about it, but then you read it again and you lose yourself in it again as when you wrote it.
The other thing in connection with this her first book that gave her pleasure was a very enthusiastic note from H. G. Wells. She kept this for years apart, it had meant so much to her. She wrote to him at that time and they were often to meet but as it happened they never did. And they are not likely to now.
Gertrude Stein was at that time writing The Making of Americans. It had changed from being a history of a family to being a history of everybody the family knew and then it became the history of every kind and of every individual human being. But in spite of all this there was a hero and he was to die. The day he died I met Gertrude Stein at Mildred Aldrich’s apartment. Mildred was very fond of Gertrude Stein and took a deep interest in the book’s ending. It was over a thousand pages long and I was typewriting it.
I always say that you cannot tell what a picture really is or what an object really is until you dust it every day and you cannot tell what a book is until you type it or proof-read it. It then does something to you that only reading never can do. A good many years later Jane Heap said that she had never appreciated the quality of Gertrude Stein’s work until she proof-read it.
When The Making of Americans was finished, Gertrude Stein began another which also was to be long and which she called A Long Gay Book but it did not turn out to be long, neither that nor one begun at the same time Many Many Women because they were both interrupted by portrait writing. This is how portrait writing began.
Hélène used to stay at home with her husband Sunday evening, that is to say she was always willing to come but we often told her not to bother. I like cooking, I am an extremely good five-minute cook, and beside, Gertrude Stein liked from time to time to have me make american dishes. One Sunday evening I was very busy preparing one of these and then I called Gertrude Stein to come in from the atelier for supper. She came in much excited and would not sit down. Here I want to show you something, she said. No I said it has to be eaten hot. No, she said, you have to see this first. Gertrude Stein never likes her food hot and I do like mine hot, we never agree about this. She admits that one can wait to cool it but one cannot heat it once it is on a plate so it is agreed that I have it served as hot as I like. In spite of my protests and the food cooling I had to read. I can still see the little tiny pages of the note-book written forward and back. It was the portrait called Ada, the first in Geography and Plays. I began it and I thought she was making fun of me and I protested, she says I protest now about my autobiography. Finally I read it all and was terribly pleased with it. And then we ate our supper.
This was the beginning of the long series of portraits. She has written portraits of practically everybody she has known, and written them in all manners and in all styles.
Ada was followed by portraits of Matisse and Picasso, and Stieglitz who was much interested in them and in Gertrude Stein printed them in a special number of Camera Work.
She then began to do short portraits of everybody who came in and out. She did one of Arthur Frost, the son of A. B. Frost the american illustrator. Frost was a Matisse pupil and his pride when he read his portrait and found that it was three full pages longer than either the portrait of Matisse or the portrait of Picasso was something to hear.
A. B. Frost complained to Pat Bruce who had led Frost to Matisse that it was a pity that Arthur could not see his way to becoming a conventional artist and so earning fame and money. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink said Pat Bruce. Most horses drink, Mr. Bruce, said A. B. Frost.
Bruce, Patrick Henry Bruce, was one of the early and most ardent Matisse pupils and soon he made little Matisses, but he was not happy. In explaining his unhappiness he told Gertrude Stein, they talk about the sorrows of great artists, the tragic unhappiness of great artists but after all they are great artists. A little artist has all the tragic unhappiness and the sorrows of a great artist and he is not a great artist.
She did portraits of Nadelman, also of the protégés of the sculptress Mrs. Whitney, Lee and Russell also of Harry Phelan Gibb, her first and best english friend. She did portraits of Manguin and Roche and Purrmann and David Edstrom, the fat swedish sculptor who married the head of the Christian Science Church in Paris and destroyed her. And Brenner, Brenner the sculptor who never finished anything. He had an admirable technique and a great many obsessions which kept him from work. Gertrude Stein was very fond of him and still is. She once posed to him for weeks and he did a fragmentary portrait of her that is very fine. He and Cody later published some numbers of a little review called Soil and they were among the very early ones to print something of Gertrude Stein. The only little magazine that preceded it was one called Rogue, printed by Allan Norton and which printed her description of the Galérie Lafayette. This was of course all much later and happened through Carl Van Vechten.
She also did portraits of Miss Etta Cone and her sister Doctor Claribel Cone. She also did portraits of Miss Mars and Miss Squires under the title of Miss Furr and Miss Skeene. There were portraits of Mildred Aldrich and her sister. Everybody was given their portrait to read and they were all pleased and it was all very amusing. All this occupied a great deal of that winter and then we went to Spain.
In Spain Gertrude Stein began to write the things that led to Tender Buttons.
I liked Spain immensely. We went several times to Spain and I always liked it more and more. Gertrude Stein says that I am impartial on every subject except that of Spain and spaniards.
We went straight to Avila and I immediately lost my heart to Avila, I must stay in Avila forever I insisted. Gertrude Stein was very upset, Avila was alright but, she insisted, she needed Paris. I felt that I needed nothing but Avila. We were both very violent about it. We did however stay there for ten days and as Saint Theresa was a heroine of Gertrude Stein’s youth we thoroughly enjoyed it. In the opera Four Saint% written a few years ago she describes the landscape that so profoundly moved me.
We went on to Madrid and there we met Georgiana King of Bryn Mawr, an old friend of Gertrude Stein from Baltimore days. Georgiana King wrote some of the most interesting of the early criticisms of Three Lives. She was then re-editing Street on the cathedrals of Spain and in connection with this she had wandered all over Spain. She gave us a great deal of very good advice.
In these days Gertrude Stein wore a brown corduroy suit, jacket and skirt, a small straw cap, always crocheted for her by a woman in Fiesole, sandals, and she often carried a cane. That summer the head of the cane was of amber. It is more or less this costume without the cap and the cane that Picasso has painted in his portrait of her. This costume was ideal for Spain, they all thought of her as belonging to some religious order and we were always treated with the most absolute respect. I remember that once a nun was showing us the treasures in a convent church in Toledo. We were near the steps of the altar. All of a sudden there was a crash, Gertrude Stein had dropped her cane. The nun paled, the worshippers startled. Gertrude Stein picked up her cane and turning to the frightened nun said reassuringly, no it is not broken.
I used in those days of spanish travelling to wear what I was wont to call my spanish disguise. I always wore a black silk coat, black gloves and a black hat, the only pleasure I allowed myself were lovely artificial flowers on my hat. These always enormously interested the peasant women and they used to very courteously ask my permission to touch them, to realise for themselves that they were artificial.
We went to Cuenca that summer, Harry Gibb the english painter had told us about it. Harry Gibb is a strange case of a man who foresaw everything. He had been a successful animal painter in his youth in England, he came from the north of England, he had married and gone to Germany, there he had become dissatisfied with what he had been doing and heard about the new school of painting in Paris. He came to Paris and was immediately influenced by Matisse. He then became interested in Picasso and he did some very remarkable painting under their combined influences. Then all this together threw him into something else something that fairly completely achieved what the surrealists after the war tried to do. The only thing he lacked is what the french call saveur, what may be called the graciousness of a picture. Because of this lack it was impossible for him to find a french audience. Naturally in those days there was no english audience. Harry Gibb fell on bad days. He was always falling upon bad days. He and his wife Bridget one of the pleasantest of the wives of a genius I have sat with were full of courage and they faced everything admirably, but there were always very difficult days. And then things were a little better. He found a couple of patrons who believed in him and it was at this time, 1912–1913, that he went to Dublin and had rather an epoch-making show of his pictures there. It was at that time that he took with him several copies of the portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia, Mabel Dodge had had it printed in Florence, and it was then that the Dublin writers in the cafes heard Gertrude Stein read aloud. Doctor Gogarty, Harry Gibb’s host and admirer, loved to read it aloud himself and have others read it aloud.
After that there was the war and eclipse for poor Harry, and since then a long sad struggle. He has had his ups and downs, more downs than up, but only recently there was a new turn of the wheel. Gertrude Stein who loved them both dearly always was convinced that the two painters of her generation who would be discovered after they were dead, they being predestined to a life of tragedy, were Juan Gris and Harry Gibb. Juan Gris dead these five years is beginning to come into his own. Harry Gibb still alive is still unknown. Gertrude Stein and Harry Gibb have always been very loyal and very loving friends. One of the very good early portraits she did she did of him, it was printed in the Oxford Review and then in Geography and Plays.
So Harry Gibb told us about Cuenca and we went on a little railroad that turned around curves and ended in the middle of nowhere and there was Cuenca.
We delighted in Cuenca and the population of Cuenca delighted in us. It delighted in us so much that it was getting uncomfortable. Then one day when we were out walking, all of a sudden the population, particularly the children, kept their distance. Soon a uniformed man came up and saluting said that he was a policeman of the town and that the governor of the province had detailed him to always hover in the distance as we went about the country to prevent our being annoyed by the population and that he hoped that this would not inconvenience us. It did not, he was charming and he took us to lovely places in the country where we could not very well have gone by ourselves. Such was Spain in the old days.
We finally came back to Madrid again and there we discovered the Argentina and bull-fights. The young journalists of Madrid had just discovered her. We happened upon her in a music hall, we went to them to see spanish dancing, and after we saw her the first time we went every afternoon and every evening. We went to the bull-fights. At first they upset me and Gertrude Stein used to tell me, now look, now don’t look, until finally I was able to look all the time.
We finally came to Granada and stayed there for some time and there Gertrude Stein worked terrifically. She was always very fond of Granada. It was there she had her first experience of Spain when still at college just after the spanish-american war when she and her brother went through Spain. They had a delightful time and she always tells of sitting in the dining room talking to a bostonian and his daughter when suddenly there was a terrific noise, the hee-haw of a donkey. What is it, said the young bostonian trembling. Ah, said the father, it is the last sigh of the Moor.
We enjoyed Granada, we met many amusing people english and spanish and it was there and at that time that Gertrude Stein’s style gradually changed. She says hitherto she had been interested only in the insides of people, their character and what went on inside them, it was during that summer that she first felt a desire to express the rhythm of the visible world.
It was a long tormenting process, she looked, listened and described. She always was, she always is, tormented by the problem of the external and the internal. One of the things that always worries her about painting is the difficulty that the artist feels and which sends him to painting still lifes, that after all the human being essentially is not paintable. Once again and very recently she has thought that a painter has added something to the solution of this problem. She is interested in Picabia in whom hitherto she has never been interested because he at least knows that if you do not solve your painting problem in painting human beings you do not solve it at all. There is also a follower of Picabia’s, who is facing the problem, but will he solve it. Perhaps not. Well anyway it is that of which she is always talking and now her own struggle with it was to begin.
These were the days in which she wrote Susie Asado and Preciocilla and Gypsies in Spain. She experimented with everything in trying to describe. She tried a bit inventing words but she soon gave that up. The english language was her medium and with the english language the task was to be achieved, the problem solved. The use of fabricated words offended her, it was an escape into imitative emotionalism.
No, she stayed with her task, although after the return to Paris she described objects, she described rooms and objects, which joined with her first experiments done in Spain, made the volume Tender Buttons.
She always however made her chief study people and therefore the never ending series of portraits.
We came back to the rue de Fleurus as usual.
One of the people who had impressed me very much when I first came to the rue de Fleurus was Mildred Aldrich.
Mildred Aldrich was then in her early fifties, a stout vigorous woman with a George Washington face, white hair and admirably clean fresh clothes and gloves. A very striking figure and a very satisfying one in the crowd of mixed nationalities. She was indeed one of whom Picasso could say and did say, c’est elle qui fera la glorie de l’Amérique. She made one very satisfied with one’s country, which had produced her.
Her sister having left for America she lived alone on the top floor of a building on the corner of the boulevard Raspail and the half street, rue Boissonade. There she had at the window an enormous cage filled with canaries. We always thought it was because she loved canaries. Not at all. A friend had once left her a canary in a cage to take care of during her absence. Mildred as she did everything else, took excellent care of the canary in the cage. Some friend seeing this and naturally concluding that Mildred was fond of canaries gave her another canary. Mildred of course took excellent care of both canaries and so the canaries increased and the size of the cage grew until in 1914 she moved to Huiry to the Hilltop on the Marne and gave her canaries away. Her excuse was that in the country cats would eat the canaries. But her real reason she once told me was that she really could not bear canaries.
Mildred was an excellent housekeeper. I was very surprised, having had a very different impression of her, going up to see her one afternoon, finding her mending her linen and doing it beautifully.
Mildred adored cablegrams, she adored being hard up, or rather she adored spending money and as her earning capacity although great was limited, Mildred was chronically hard up. In those days she was making contracts to put Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird on the american stage. The arrangements demanded endless cablegrams, and my early memories of Mildred were of her coming to our little apartment in the rue Notre–Dame-des-Champs late in the evening and asking me to lend her the money for a long cable. A few days later the money was returned with a lovely azalea worth five times the money. No wonder she was always hard up. But everybody listened to her. No one in the world could tell stories like Mildred. I can still see her at the rue de Fleurus sitting in one of the big armchairs and gradually the audience increasing around her as she talked.
She was very fond of Gertrude Stein, very interested in her work, enthusiastic about Three Lives, deeply impressed but slightly troubled by The Making of Americans, quite upset by Tender Buttons, but always loyal and convinced that if Gertrude Stein did it it had something in it that was worth while.
Her joy and pride when in nineteen twenty-six Gertrude Stein gave her lecture at Cambridge and Oxford was touching. Gertrude Stein must come out and read it to her before leaving. Gertrude Stein did, much to their mutual pleasure. Mildred Aldrich liked Picasso and even liked Matisse, that is personally, but she was troubled. One day she said to me, Alice, tell me is it alright, are they really alright, I know Gertrude thinks so and Gertrude knows, but really is it not all fumisterie, is it not all false.
In spite of these occasional doubtful days Mildred Aldrich liked it all. She liked coming herself and she liked bringing other people. She brought a great many. It was she who brought Henry McBride who was then writing on the New York Sun. It was Henry McBride who used to keep Gertrude Stein’s name before the public all those tormented years. Laugh if you like, he used to say to her detractors, but laugh with and not at her, in that way you will enjoy it all much better.
Henry McBride did not believe in worldly success. It ruins you, it ruins you, he used to say. But Henry, Gertrude Stein used to answer dolefully, don’t you think I will ever have any success, I would like to have a little, you know. Think of my unpublished manuscripts. But Henry McBride was firm, the best that I can wish you, he always said, is to have no success. It is the only good thing. He was firm about that.
He was however enormously pleased when Mildred was successful and he now says he thinks the time has come when Gertrude Stein could indulge in a little success. He does not think that now it would hurt her.
It was about this time that Roger Fry first came to the house. He brought Clive Bell and Mrs. Clive Bell and later there were many others. In these days Clive Bell went along with the other two. He was rather complainful that his wife and Roger Fry took too much interest in capital works of art. He was quite funny about it. He was very amusing, later when he became a real art critic he was less so.
Roger Fry was always charming, charming as a guest and charming as a host; later when we went to London we spent a day with him in the country.
He was filled with excitement at the sight of the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Picasso. He wrote an article about it in the Burlington Review and illustrated it by two photographs side by side, one the photograph of this portrait and the other a photograph of a portrait by Raphael. He insisted that these two pictures were equal in value. He brought endless people to the house. Very soon there were throngs of englishmen, Augustus John and Lamb, Augustus John amazing looking and not too sober, Lamb rather strange and attractive.
It was about this time that Roger Fry had many young disciples. Among them was Wyndham Lewis, Wyndham Lewis, tall and thin, looked rather like a young frenchman on the rise, perhaps because his feet were very french, or at least his shoes. He used to come and sit and measure pictures. I can not say that he actually measured with a measuring-rod but he gave all the effect of being in the act of taking very careful measurement of the canvas, the lines within the canvas and everything that might be of use. Gertrude Stein rather liked him. She particularly liked him one day when he came and told all about his quarrel with Roger Fry. Roger Fry had come in not many days before and had already told all about it. They told exactly the same story only it was different, very different.
This was about the time too that Prichard of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and later of the Kensington Museum began coming. Prichard brought a great many young Oxford men. They were very nice in the room, and they thought Picasso wonderful. They felt and indeed in a way it was true that he had a halo. With these Oxford men came Thomas Whittemore of Tufts College. He was fresh and engaging and later to Gertrude Stein’s great delight he one day said, all blue is precious.
Everybody brought somebody. As I said the character of the Saturday evenings was gradually changing, that is to say, the kind of people who came had changed. Somebody brought the Infanta Eulalia and brought her several times. She was delighted and with the flattering memory of royalty she always remembered my name even some years after when we met quite by accident in the place Vendôme. When she first came into the room she was a little frightened. It seemed a strange place but gradually she liked it very much. Lady Cunard brought her daughter Nancy, then a little girl, and very solemnly bade her never forget the visit.
Who else came. There were so many. The bavarian minister brought quantities of people. Jacques–Emile Blanche brought delightful people, so did Alphonse Kann. There was Lady Otoline Morrell looking like a marvellous feminine version of Disraeli and tall and strange shyly hesitating at the door. There was a dutch near royalty who was left by her escort who had to go and find a cab and she looked during this short interval badly frightened.
There was a roumanian princess, and her cabman grew impatient. Hélène came in to announce violently that the cabman would not wait. And then after a violent knock, the cabman himself announced that he would not wait.
It was an endless variety. And everybody came and no one made any difference. Gertrude Stein sat peacefully in a chair and those who could did the same, the rest stood. There were the friends who sat around the stove and talked and there were the endless strangers who came and went. My memory of it is very vivid.
As I say everybody brought people. William Cook brought a great many from Chicago, very wealthy stout ladies and equally wealthy tall good-looking thin ones. That summer having found the Balearic Islands on the map, we went to the island of Mallorca and on the little boat going over was Cook. He too had found it on the map. We stayed only a little while but he settled down for the summer, and then later he went back and was the solitary first of all the big crowd of americans who have discovered Palma since. We all went back again during the war.
It was during this summer that Picasso gave us a letter to a friend of his youth one Raventos in Barcelona. But does he talk french, asked Gertrude Stein, Pablo giggled, better than you do Gertrude, he answered.
Raventos gave us a good time, he and a descendant of de Soto took us about for two long days, the days were long because so much of them were night. They had an automobile, even in those early days, and they took us up into the hills to see early churches. We would rush up a hill and then happily come down a, little slower and every two hours or so we ate a dinner. When we finally came back to Barcelona about ten o’clock in the evening they said, now we will have an apéritif and then we will eat dinner. It was exhausting eating so many dinners but we enjoyed ourselves.
Later on much later on indeed only a few years ago Picasso introduced us to another friend of his youth.
Sabartes and he have known each other ever since they were fifteen years old but as Sabartes had disappeared into South America, Montevideo, Uruguay, before Gertrude Stein met Picasso, she had never heard of him. One day a few years ago Picasso sent word that he was bringing Sabartes to the house. Sabartes, in Uruguay, had read some things of Gertrude Stein in various magazines and he had conceived a great admiration for her work. It never occurred to him that Picasso would know her. Having come back for the first time in all these years to Paris he went to see Picasso and he told him about this Gertrude Stein. But she is my only friend, said Picasso, it is the only home I go to. Take me, said Sabartes, and so they came.
Gertrude Stein and spaniards are natural friends and this time too the friendship grew.
It was about this time that the futurists, the italian futurists, had their big show in Paris and it made a great deal of noise. Everybody was excited and this show being given in a very well known gallery everybody wept. Jacques–Emile Blanche was terribly upset by it. We found him wandering tremblingly in the garden of the Tuileries and he said, it looks alright but is it. No it isn’t, said Gertude Stein. You do me good, said Jacques–Emile Blanche.
The futurists all of them led by Severini thronged around Picasso. He brought them all to the house. Marinetti came by himself later as I remember. In any case everybody found the futurists very dull.
Epstein the sculptor came to the rue de Fleurus one evening. When Gertrude Stein first came to Paris in nineteen hundred and four, Epstein was a thin rather beautiful rather melancholy ghost who used to slip in and out among the Rodin statues in the Luxembourg museum. He had illus. trated Hutchins Hapgood’s studies of the ghetto and with the funds he came to Paris and was very poor. Now when I first saw him, he had come to Paris to place his sphynx statue to Oscar Wilde over Oscar Wilde’s grave. He was a large rather stout man, not unimpressive but not beautiful. He had an english wife who had a very remarkable pair of brown eyes, of a shade of brown I had never before seen in eyes.
Doctor Claribel Cone of Baltimore came majestically in and out. She loved to read Gertrude Stein’s work out loud and she did read it out loud extraordinarily well. She liked ease and graciousness and comfort. She and her sister Etta Cone were traveling. The only room in the hotel was not comfortable. Etta bade her sister put up with it as it was only for one night. Etta, answered Doctor Claribel, one night is as important as any other night in my life and I must be comfortable. When the war broke out she happened to be in Munich engaged in scientific work. She could never leave because it was never comfortable to travel. Everybody delighted in Doctor Claribel. Much later Picasso made a drawing of her.
Emily Chadbourne came, it was she who brought Lady Otoline Morrell and she also brought many bostonians.
Mildred Aldrich once brought a very extraordinary person Myra Edgerly. I remembered very well that when I was quite young and went to a fancy-dress ball, a Mardi Gras ball in San Francisco, I saw a very tall and very beautiful and very brilliant woman there. This was Myra Edgerly young. Genthe, the well known photographer did endless photographs of her, mostly with a cat. She had come to London as a miniaturist and she had had one of those phenomenal successes that americans do have in Europe. She had miniatured everybody, and the royal family, and she had maintained her earnest gay careless outspoken San Francisco way through it all. She now came to Paris to study a little. She met Mildred Aldrich and became very devoted to her. Indeed it was Myra who in nineteen thirteen, when Mildred’s earning capacity was rapidly dwindling secured an annuity for her and made it possible for Mildred to retire to the Hilltop on the Marne.
Myra Edgerly was very earnestly anxious that Gertrude Stein’s work should be more widely known. When Mildred told her about all those unpublished manuscripts Myra said something must be done. And of course something was done.
She knew John Lane slightly and she said Gertrude Stein and I must go to London. But first Myra must write letters and then I must write letters to everybody for Gertrude Stein. She told me the formula I must employ. I remember it began, Miss Gertrude Stein as you may or may not know, is, and then you went on and said everything you had to say.
Under Myra’s strenuous impulsion we went to London in the winter of nineteen twelve, thirteen, for a few weeks. We did have an awfully good time.
Myra took us with her to stay with Colonel and Mrs. Rogers at Riverhill in Surrey. This was in the vicinity of Knole and of Ightham Mote, beautiful houses and beautiful parks. This was my first experience of country-house visiting in England since, as a small child, I had only been in the nursery. I enjoyed every minute of it. The comfort, the open fires, the tall maids who were like annunciation angels, the beautiful gardens, the children, the ease of it all. And the quantity of objects and of beautiful things. What is that, I would ask Mrs. Rogers, ah that I know nothing about, it was here when I came. It gave me a feeling that there had been so many lovely brides in that house who had found all these things there when they came.
Gertrude Stein liked country-house visiting less than I did. The continuous pleasant hesitating flow of conversation, the never ceasing sound of the human voice speaking in english, bothered her.
On our next visit to London and when because of being caught by the war we stayed in country houses with our friends a very long time, she managed to isolate herself for considerable parts of the day and to avoid at least one of the three or four meals, and so she liked it better.
We did have a good time in England. Gertrude Stein completely forgot her early dismal memory of London and has liked visiting there immensely ever since.
We went to Roger Fry’s house in the country and were charmingly entertained by his quaker sister. We went to Lady Otoline Morrell and met everbody. We went to Clive Bell’s. We went about all the time, we went shopping and ordered things. I still have my bag and jewel box. We had an extremely good time. And we went very often to see John Lane. In fact we were supposed to go every Sunday afternoon to his house for tea and Gertrude Stein had several interviews with him in his office. How well I knew all the things in all the shops near the Bodley Head because while Gertrude Stein was inside with John Lane while nothing happened and then when finally something happened I waited outside and looked at everything.
The Sunday afternoons at John Lane’s were very amusing. As I remember during that first stay in London we went there twice.
John Lane was very interested. Mrs. John Lane was a Boston woman and very kind.
Tea at the John Lane’s Sunday afternoons was an experience. John Lane had copies of Three Lives and The Portrait of Mabel Dodge. One did not know why he selected the people he did to show it to. He did not give either book to any one to read. He put it into their hands and took it away again and inaudibly he announced that Gertrude Stein was here. Nobody was introduced to anybody. From time to time John Lane would take Gertrude Stein into various rooms and show her his pictures, odd pictures of English schools of all periods, some of them very pleasing. Sometimes he told a story about how he had come to get it. He never said anything else about a picture. He also showed her a great many Beardsley drawings and they talked about Paris.
The second Sunday he asked her to come again to the Bodley Head. This was a long interview. He said that Mrs. Lane had read Three Lives and thought very highly of it and that he had the greatest confidence in her judgment. He asked Gertrude Stein when she was coming back to London. She said she probably was not coming back to London. Well, he said, when you come in July I imagine we will be ready to arrange something. Perhaps, he added, I may see you in Paris in the early spring.
And so we left London. We were on the whole very pleased with ourselves. We had had a very good time and it was the first time that Gertrude Stein had ever had a conversation with a publisher.
Mildred Aldrich often brought a whole group of people to the house Saturday evening. One evening a number of people came in with her and among them was Mabel Dodge. I remember my impression of her very well.
She was a stoutish woman with a very sturdy fringe of heavy hair over her forehead, heavy long lashes and very pretty eyes and a very old fashioned coquetry. She had a lovely voice. She reminded me of a heroine of my youth, the actress Georgia Cayvan. She asked us to come to Florence to stay with her. We were going to spend the summer as was then our habit in Spain but we were going to be back in Paris in the fall and perhaps we then would. When we came back there were several urgent telegrams from Mabel Dodge asking us to come to the Villa Curonia and we did.
We had a very amusing time. We liked Edwin Dodge and we liked Mabel Dodge but we particularly liked Constance Fletcher whom we met there.
Constance Fletcher came a day or so after we arrived and I went to the station to meet her. Mabel Dodge had described her to me as a very large woman who would wear a purple robe and who was deaf. As a matter of fact she was dressed in green and was not deaf but very short sighted, and she was delightful.
Her father and mother came from and lived in Newbury-port, Massachusetts. Edwin Dodge’s people came from the same town and this was a strong bond of union. When Constance was twelve years old her mother fell in love with the english tutor of Constance’s younger brother. Constance knew that her mother was about to leave her home. For a week Constance laid on her bed and wept and then accompanied her mother and her future step-father to Italy. Her step-father being an englishman Constance became passionately an english woman. The step-father was a painter who had a local reputation among the english residents in Italy.
When Constance Fletcher was eighteen years old she wrote a best-seller called Kismet and was engaged to be married to Lord Lovelace the descendant of Byron.
She did not marry him and thereafter lived always in Italy. Finally she became permanently fixed in Venice. This was after the death of her mother and father. I always liked as a californian her description of Joaquin Miller in Rome, in her younger days.
Now in her comparative old age she was attractive and impressive. I am very fond of needlework and I was fascinated by her fashion of embroidering wreaths of flowers. There was nothing drawn upon her linen, she just held it in her hands, from time to time bringing it closely to one eye, and eventually the wreath took form. She was very fond of ghosts. There were two of them in the Villa Curonia and Mabel was very fond of frightening visiting americans with them which she did in her suggestive way very effectively. Once she drove a house party consisting of Jo and Yvonne Davidson, Florence Bradley, Mary Foote and a number of others quite mad with fear. And at last to complete the effect she had the local priest in to exorcise the ghosts. You can imagine the state of mind of her guests. But Constance Fletcher was fond of ghosts and particularly attached to the later one, who was a wistful ghost of an english governess who had killed herself in the house.
One morning I went in to Constance Fletcher’s bedroom to ask her how she was, she had not been very well the night before.
I went in and closed the door. Constance Fletcher very large and very white was lying in one of the vast renaissance beds with which the villa was furnished. Near the door was a very large renaissance cupboard. I had a delightful night, said Constance Fletcher, the gentle ghost visited me all night, indeed she has just left me. I imagine she is still in the cup-. board, will you open it please. I did. Is she there, asked Constance Fletcher. I said I saw nothing. Ah yes, said Constance Fletcher.
We had a delightful time and Gertrude Stein at that time wrote The Portrait of Mabel Dodge. She also wrote the portrait of Constance Fletcher that was later printed in Geography and Plays. Many years later indeed after the war in London I met Siegfried Sassoon at a party given by Edith Sitwell for Gertrude Stein. He spoke of Gertrude Stein’s portrait of Constance Fletcher which he had read in Geography and Plays and said that he had first become interested in Gertrude Stein’s work because of this portrait. And he added, and did you know her and if you did can you tell me about her marvellous voice. I said, very much interested, then you did not know her. No, he said, I never saw her but she ruined my life. How, I asked excitedly. Because, he answered, she separated my father from my mother.
Constance Fletcher had written one very successful play which had had a long run in London called Green Stockings but her real life had been in Italy. She was more italian than the italians. She admired her step-father and therefore was english but she was really dominated by the fine italian hand of Machiavelli. She could and did intrigue in the italian way better than even the italians and she was a disturbing influence for many years in Venice not only among the english but also among the italians.
André Gide turned up while we were at the Villa Curonia. It was rather a dull evening. It was then also that we first met Muriel Draper and Paul Draper. Gertrude Stein always liked Paul very much. She delighted in his american enthusiasm, and explanation of all things musical and human. He had had a great deal of adventure in the West and that was another bond between them. When Paul Draper left to return to London Mabel Dodge received a telegram saying, pearls missing suspect the second man. She came to Gertrude Stein in great agitation asking what she should do about it. Don’t wake me, said Gertrude Stein, do nothing. And then sitting up, but that is a nice thing to say, suspect the second man, that is charming, but who and what is the second man. Mabel explained that the last time they had a robbery in the villa the police said that they could do nothing because nobody suspected any particular person and this time Paul to avoid that complication suspected the second man servant. While this explanation was being given another telegram came, pearls found. The second man had put the pearls in the collar box.
Haweis and his wife, later Mina Loy were also in Florence. Their home had been dismantled as they had had workmen in it but they put it all in order to give us a delightful lunch. Both Haweis and Mina were among the very earliest to be interested in the work of Gertrude Stein. Haweis had been fascinated with what he had read in manuscript of The Making of Americans. He did however plead for commas. Gertrude Stein said commas were unnecessary, the sense should be intrinsic and not have to be explained by commas and otherwise commas were only a sign that one should pause and take breath but one should know of oneself when one wanted to pause and take breath. However, as she liked Haweis very much and he had given her a delightful painting for a fan, she gave him two commas. It must however be added that on rereading the manuscript she took the commas out.
Mina Loy equally interested was able to understand without the commas. She has always been able to understand.
Gertrude Stein having written The Portrait of Mabel Dodge, Mabel Dodge immediately wanted it printed. She had three hundred copies struck off and bound in Florentine paper. Constance Fletcher corrected the proofs and we were all awfully pleased. Mabel Dodge immediately conceived the idea that Gertrude Stein should be invited from one country house to another and do portraits and then end up doing portraits of american millionaires which would be a very exciting and lucrative career. Gertrude Stein laughed. A little later we went back to Paris.
It was during this winter that Gertrude Stein began to write plays. They began with the one entitled, It Happened a Play. This was written about a dinner party given by Harry and Bridget Gibb. She then wrote Ladies’ Voices. Her interest in writing plays continues. She says a landscape is such a natural arrangement for a battle-field or a play that one must write plays.
Florence Bradley, a friend of Mabel Dodge, was spending a winter in Paris. She had had some stage experience and had been interested in planning a little theatre. She was vitally interested in putting these plays on the stage. Demuth was in Paris too at this time. He was then more interested in writing than in painting and particularly interested in these plays. He and Florence Bradley were always talking them over together.
Gertrude Stein has never seen Demuth since. When she first heard that he was painting she was much interested. They never wrote to each other but they often sent messages by mutual friends. Demuth always sent word that some day he would do a little picture that would thoroughly please him and then he would send it to her. And sure enough after all these years, two years ago some one left at the rue de Fleurus during our absence a little picture with a message that this was the picture that Demuth was ready to give to Gertrude Stein. It is a remarkable little landscape in which the roofs and windows are so subtle that they are as mysterious and as alive as the roofs and windows of Hawthorne or Henry James.
It was not long after this that Mabel Dodge went to America and it was the winter of the armoury show which was the first time the general public had a chance to see any of these pictures. It was there that Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending the Staircase was shown.
It was about this time that Picabia and Gertrude Stein met. I remember going to dinner at the Picabias’ and a pleasant dinner it was, Gabrielle Picabia full of life and gaiety, Picabia dark and lively, and Marcel Duchamp looking like a young norman crusader.
I was always perfectly able to understand the enthusiasm that Marcel Duchamp aroused in New York when he went there in the early years of the war. His brother had just died from the effect of his wounds, his other brother was still at the front and he himself was inapt for military service. He was very depressed and he went to America. Everybody loved him. So much so that it was a joke in Paris that when any american arrived in Paris the first thing he said was, and how is Marcel. Once Gertrude Stein went to see Braque, just after the war, and going into the studio in which there happened just then to be three young americans, she said to Braque, and how is Marcelle. The three young americans came up to her breathlessly and said, have you seen Marcel. She laughed, and having become accustomed to the inevitableness of the american belief that there was only one Marcel, she explained that Braque’s wife was named Marcelle and it was Marcelle Braque about whom she was enquiring.
In those days Picabia and Gertrude Stein did not get to be very good friends. He annoyed her with his incessantness and what she called the vulgarity of his delayed adolescence. But oddly enough in this last year they have gotten to be very fond of each other. She is very much interested in his drawing and in his painting. It began with his show just a year ago. She is now convinced that although he has in a sense not a painter’s gift he has an idea that has been and will be of immense value to all time. She calls him the Leonardo da Vinci of the movement. And it is true, he understands and invents everything.
As soon as the winter of the armoury show was over Mabel Dodge came back to Europe and she brought with her what Jacques–Emile Blanche called her collection des jeunes gens assortis, a mixed assortment of young men. In the lot were Carl Van Vechten, Robert Jones and John Reed. Carl Van Vechten did not come to the rue de Fleurus with her. He came later in the spring by himself. The other two came with her. I remember the evening they all came. Picasso was there too. He looked at John Reed critically and said, le genre de Braque mais beaucoup moins rigolo, Braque’s kind but much less diverting. I remember also that Reed told me about his trip through Spain. He told me he had seen many strange sights there, that he had seen witches chased through the street of Salamanca. As I had been spending months in Spain and he only weeks I neither liked his stories nor believed them.
Robert Jones was very impressed by Gertrude Stein’s looks. He said he would like to array her in cloth of gold and he wanted to design it then and there. It did not interest her. Among the people that we had met at John Lane’s in London was Gordon Caine and her husband. Gordon Caine had been a Wellesley girl who played the harp with which she always travelled, and who always re-arranged the furniture in the hotel room completely, even if she was only to stay one night. She was tall, rosy-haired and very good-looking. Her husband was a well known humorous english writer and one of John Lane’s authors. They had entertained us very pleasantly in London and we asked them to dine with us their first night in Paris. I don’t know quite what happened but Hélene cooked a very bad dinner. Only twice in all her long service did Hélene fail us. This time and when about two weeks later Carl Van Vechten turned up. That time too she did strange things, her dinner consisting of a series of hors d’oeuvres. However that is later.
During dinner Mrs. Caine said that she had taken the liberty of asking her very dear friend and college mate Mrs. Van Vechten to come in after dinner because she was very anxious that she should meet Gertrude Stein as she was very depressed and unhappy and Gertrude Stein could undoubtedly have an influence for the good in her life. Gertrude Stein said that she had a vague association with the name of Van Vechten but could not remember what it was. She has a bad memory for names. Mrs. Van Vechten came. She too was a very tall woman, it would appear that a great many tall ones go to Wellesley, and she too was good-looking. Mrs. Van Vechten told the story of the tragedy of her married life but Gertrude Stein was not particularly interested.
It was about a week later that Florence Bradley asked us to go with her to see the second performance of the Sacre du Printemps. The russian ballet had just given the first performance of it and it had made a terrible uproar. All Paris was excited about it. Florence Bradley had gotten three tickets in a box, the box held four, and asked us to go with her. In the meantime there had been a letter from Mabel Dodge introducing Carl Van Vechten, a young New York journalist. Gertrude Stein invited him to dine the following Saturday evening.
We went early to the russian ballet, these were the early great days of the russian ballet with Nijinsky as the great dancer. And a great dancer he was. Dancing excites me tremendously and it is a thing I know a great deal about. I have seen three very great dancers. My geniuses seem to run in threes, but that is not my fault, it happens to be a fact. The three really great dancers I have seen are the Argentina, Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky. Like the three geniuses I have known they are each one of a different nationality.
Nijinsky did not dance in the Sacre du Printemps but he created the dance of those who did dance.
We arrived in the box and sat down in the three front chairs leaving one chair behind. Just in front of us in the seats below was Guillaume Apollinaire. He was dressed in evening clothes and he was industriously kissing various important looking ladies’ hands. He was the first one of his crowd to come out into the great world wearing evening clothes and kissing hands. We were very amused and very pleased to see him do it. It was the first time we had seen him doing it. After the war they all did these things but he was the only one to commence before the war.
Just before the performance began the fourth chair in our box was occupied. We looked around and there was a tall well-built young man, he might have been a dutchman, a scandinavian or an american and he wore a soft evening shirt with the tiniest pleats all over the front of it. It was impressive, we had never even heard that they were wearing evening shirts like that. That evening when we got home Gertrude Stein did a portrait of the unknown called a Portrait of One.
The performance began. No sooner had it commenced when the excitement began. The scene now so well known with its brilliantly coloured background now not at all extraordinary, outraged the Paris audience. No sooner did the music begin and the dancing than they began to hiss. The defenders began to applaud. We could hear nothing, as a matter of fact I never did hear any of the music of the Sacre du Printemps because it was the only time I ever saw it and one literally could not, throughout the whole performance, hear the sound of music. The dancing was very fine and that we could see although our attention was constantly distracted by a man in the box next to us flourishing his cane, and finally in a violent altercation with an enthusiast in the box next to him, his cane came down and smashed the opera hat the other had just put on in defiance. It was all incredibly fierce.
The next Saturday evening Carl Van Vechten was to come to dinner. He came and he was the young man of the soft much-pleated evening shirt and it was the same shirt. Also of course he was the hero or villain of Mrs. Van Vechten’s tragic tale.
As I said Hélène did for the second time in her life make an extraordinarily bad dinner. For some reason best known to herself she gave us course after course of hors d’oeuvres finishing up with a sweet omelet. Gertrude Stein began to tease Carl Van Vechten by dropping a word here and there of intimate knowledge of his past life. He was naturally bewildered. It was a curious evening.
Gertrude Stein and he became dear friends.
He interested Allan and Louise Norton in her work and induced them to print in the little magazine they founded, The Rogue, the first thing of Gertrude Stein’s ever printed in a little magazine, The Galérie Lafayette. In another number of this now rare little magazine, he printed a little essay on the work of Gertrude Stein. It was he who in one of his early books printed as a motto the device on Gertrude Stein’s note-paper, a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. Just recently she has had made for him by our local potter at the foot of the hill at Belley some plates in the yellow clay of the country and around the border is a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose and in the centre is to Carl.
In season and out he kept her name and her work before the public. When he was beginning to be well known and they asked him what he thought the most important book of the year he replied Three Lives by Gertrude Stein. His loyalty and his effort never weakened. He tried to make Knopf publish The Making of Americans and he almost succeeded but of course they weakened.
Speaking of the device of rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, it was I who found it in one of Gertrude Stein’s manuscripts and insisted upon putting it as a device on the letter paper, on the table linen and anywhere that she would permit that I would put it. I am very pleased with myself for having done so.
Carl Van Vechten has had a delightful habit all these years of giving letters of introduction to people who he thought would amuse Gertrude Stein. This he has done with so much discrimination that she has liked them all.
The first and perhaps the one she has liked the best was Avery Hopwood. The friendship lasted until Avery’s death a few years ago. When Avery came to Paris he always asked Gertrude Stein and myself to dine with him. This custom began in the early days of the acquaintance. Gertrude Stein is not a very enthusiastic diner-out but she never refused Avery. He always had the table charmingly decorated with flowers and the menu most carefully chosen. He sent us endless petits bleus, little telegrams, arranging this affair and we always had a good time. In these early days, holding his head a little on one side and with his tow-coloured hair, he looked like a lamb. Sometimes in the latter days as Gertrude Stein told him the lamb turned into a wolf. Gertrude Stein would I know at this moment say, dear Avery. They were very fond of each other. Not long before his death he came into the room one day and said I wish I could give you something else beside just dinner, he said, perhaps I could give you a picture. Gertrude Stein laughed, it is alright, she said to him, Avery, if you will always come here and take just tea. And then in the future beside the petit bleu in which he proposed our dining with him he would send another petit bleu saying that he would come one afternoon to take just tea. Once he came and brought with him Gertrude Atherton. He said so sweetly, I want the two Gertrudes whom I love so much to know each other. It was a perfectly delightful afternoon. Every one was pleased and charmed and as for me a californian, Gertrude Atherton had been my youthful idol and so I was very content.
The last time we saw Avery was on his last visit to Paris. He sent his usual message asking us to dinner and when he came to call for us he told Gertrude Stein that he had asked some of his friends to come because he was going to ask her to do something for him. You see, he said, you have never gone to Montmartre with me and I have a great fancy that you should to-night. I know it was your Montmartre long before it was mine but would you. She laughed and said, of course Avery.
We did after dinner go up to Montmartre with him. We went to a great many queer places and he was so proud and pleased. We were always going in a cab from one place to another and Avery Hopwood and Gertrude Stein went together and they had long talks and Avery must have had some premonition that it was the last time because he had never talked so openly and so intimately. Finally we left and he came out and put us into a cab and he told Gertrude Stein it had been one of the best evenings of his life. He left the next day for the south and we for the country. A little while after Gertrude Stein had a postal from him telling her how happy he had been to see her again and the same morning there was the news of his death in the Herald.
It was about nineteen twelve that Alvin Langdon Coburn turned up in Paris. He was a queer american who brought with him a queer english woman, his adopted mother. Alvin Langdon Coburn had just finished a series of photographs that he had done for Henry James. He had published a book of photographs of prominent men and he wished now to do a companion volume of prominent women. I imagine it was Roger Fry who had told him about Gertrude Stein. At any rate he was the first photographer to come and photograph her as a celebrity and she was nicely gratified. He did make some very good photographs of her and gave them to her and then he disappeared and though Gertrude Stein has often asked about him nobody seems ever to have heard of him since.
This brings us pretty well to the spring of nineteen fourteen. During this winter among the people who used to come to the house was the younger step-daughter of Bernard Berenson. She brought with her a young friend, Hope Mirlees and Hope said that when we went to England in the summer we must go down to Cambridge and stay with her people. We promised that we would.
During the winter Gertrude Stein’s brother decided that he would go to Florence to live. They divided the pictures that they had bought together, between them. Gertrude Stein kept the Cézannes and Picassos and her brother the Matisses and Renoirs, with the exception of the original Femme au Chapeau.
We planned that we would have a little passage-way made between the studio and the little house and as that entailed cutting a door and plastering we decided that we would paint the atelier and repaper the house and put in electricity. We proceeded to have all this done. It was the end of June before this was accomplished and the house had not yet been put in order when Gertrude Stein received a letter from John Lane saying he would be in Paris the following day and would come to see her.
We worked very hard, that is I did and the concierge and Hélène and the room was ready to receive him.
He brought with him the first copy of Blast by Wyndham Lewis and he gave it to Gertrude Stein and wanted to know what she thought of it and would she write for it. She said she did not know.
John Lane then asked her if she would come to London in July as he had almost made up his mind to republish the Three Lives and would she bring another manuscript with her. She said she would and she suggested a collection of all the portraits she had done up to that time. The Making of Americans was not considered because it was too long. And so that having been arranged John Lane left.
In those days Picasso having lived rather sadly in the rue Schcelcher was to move a little further out to Montrouge. It was not an unhappy time for him but after the Montmartre days one never heard his high whinnying spanish giggle. His friends, a great many of them, had followed him to Montparnasse but it was not the same. The intimacy with Braque was waning and of his old friends the only ones he saw frequently were Guillaume Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein. It was in that year that he began to use ripolin paints instead of the usual colours used by painters. Just the other day he was talking a long time about the ripolin paints. They are, said he gravely, la santé des couleurs, that is they are the basis of good health for paints. In those days he painted pictures and everything with ripolin paints as he still does, and as so many of his followers young and old do.
He was at this time too making constructions in paper, in tin and in all sorts of things, the sort of thing that made it possible for him afterwards to do the famous stage setting for Parade.
It was in these days that Mildred Aldrich was preparing to retire to the Hilltop on the Marne. She too was not unhappy but rather sad. She wanted us often in those sprint evenings to take a cab and have what she called our last ride together. She more often than ever dropped her house key all the way down the centre of the stairway while she called good-night to us from the top story of the apartment house on the rue Boissonade.
We often went out to the country with her to see her house. Finally she moved in. We went out and spent the day with her. Mildred was not unhappy but she was very sad. My curtains are all up, my books in order, everything is clean and what shall I do now, said Mildred. I told her that when I was a little girl, my mother said that I always used to say, what shall I do now, which was only varied by now what shall I do. Mildred said that the worst of it was that we were going to London and that she would not see us all summer. We assured her that we would only stay away a month, in fact we had return tickets, and so we had to, and as soon as we got home we would go out to see her. Anyway she was happy that at last Gertrude Stein was going to have a publisher who would publish her books. But look out for John Lane, he is a fox, she said, as we kissed her and left.
Hélène was leaving 27 rue de Fleurus because, her husband having recently been promoted to be foreman in his work shop he insisted that she must not work out any longer but must stay at home.
In short in this spring and early summer of nineteen fourteen the old life was over.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59