“The eye is a creator but thought destroys, it wants the essence of things. Oh, madness!”
(Ruiz, Contes d’un Filosof )
“I was alone at that time in understanding him, perhaps because I was expressing the same thing in literature.”
The Cubist revolt altered the whole course of art history and lent a death blow to all notions of fixity. The
contextual, conceptual and formal qualities shared by the Analytical Cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso (1881-
1973) and Gertrude Stein’s (1874-1946) early poetry forms an important fulcrum to understand the convergence
of literature and art in the early decades of the twentieth century. The epigraphs refer to the twin foci of my
essay: the Cubist stress on perception, ambiguity, relativity and the destruction of traditional syntax to
accommodate modern experience within art, and the transposition of Cubist aesthetics into literature by
Picasso’s patron and lifelong friend Gertrude Stein.
The genesis of Cubism can be traced to pre World-War Paris. Montamarte became a point of convergence for
artists, connoisseurs and intellectuals from all over Europe because of its artistic reputation. The Moroccan Crisis
and the collapse of the parliamentary alliance of the Bloc des Gauchés in 1905 led to the political disengagement
which came to define aesthetic avant-gardism in the early decades of the twentieth century. However the
impetus behind this formation of an aesthetic avant-garde at this pregnant historical moment is necessarily socio-
political. John Berger insists that trade-union activity and the proliferation of Socialist movements all over
Europe fed into the revolutionary ethics of Cubism. Darwin’s evolutionary thesis, Bergson’s notions of time,
Freud’s dream theory, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Weber’s sociological thesis, colonial expansion and
industrialization all shape the elliptical, experimental and formally complex aesthetic of modernism which the
Parisian avant-garde deployed to great effect in their works.
The existence of the avant-garde circle afforded a high degree of creative freedom. Moreover, the proliferation of
the denichéur created new circles of circulation and dissemination. This ensured that works of art were no
longer to be found in leading galleries but smaller galleries and the studios of the artists themselves. Gertrude
Stein’s apartment at 27 Rue de Flereus became a magnet for European and American artists, intellectuals and
writers such as Max Jacob, Apollianaire, Kahnweiler, Matisse, Picasso, Gris and Braque. Stein thus participates
in this historical revision of the Salon due to her position as the salonnière. The ‘home’ gets linked to the site of
production and the social space gets remade in the face of a fluid modernity underlining the presence of woman
present as active agent at the founding of an avant-garde project. Stein’s early patronage “His pictures at that
time could really only be seen at 27 Rue de Fleurus” (ABT 60) and friendship was of immense importance to
Picasso “… she is my only friend said Picasso, it is the only home I go to” (ABT 117) . Their bond can be
understood as an amalgam of numerous relationships- mentor-protégé, patron-artist and platonic friendship
between a Spanish and an American expatriate “They always talked with the tenderest friendship about each
other” (ABT 182). This complex relationship where neither had the upper hand over the other, I suggest, is the
locus by which their work can be understood.
Pablo Picasso encodes subversive intent and practice in the ‘visual’ space while Gertrude Stein counters
traditional monolithic epistemology by bringing to our attention the disruptive and transformative power of
language, especially of its ‘poetic’ space. Stein’s early work can be understood within the paradigms of a Cubist
aesthetic owing to her espousal of syntactical radicalism, repetitive rhythm and minimalism. This paper seeks
to tease out stylistic correspondences and establish a parallel between the disruptive potential of Picasso’s cubist
paintings (1907-12) and the playful, idiosyncratic and repetitive rhythms of Stein’s poetry and prose. It
intends to stress on the redefinition of the female nude by looking closely at Picasso’s Cubist nudes and Stein’s
exposition of a lesbian erotics in her poems in order to underline the dismantling of traditional representations of
the female body by Cubism in Literature and the Visual Arts.
I) “…but she is my only friend” (ABT 117): Picasso’s Stein and Stein’s Picasso
Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906), painted in his studio at Bateau Lavoir, though literally realistic in
many ways, provides a useful starting point to understand Cubist abstraction. The painting seems to be homage
to and a transformation of Cezanne’s Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair (1888-90) and Lady in a Striped Dress
(1892-96). Stein’s mask-like face and the heavily lidded, uneven and asymmetrical eyes are representative of
early Iberian influences while the sharp line of the nose, disaffected expression, the stocky forearms and the
bulky female form anticipate high Cubism. This portrait is reminiscent of Picasso’s Two Nudes (1906) painted in
the same year. Stumpy muscular forearms, the grotesquely compacted limbs and torsos arouse a sense of
superhuman strength reminiscent of Michelangelo.
The hints of immense energy within the picture mark a change from the distorted anatomies of the Blue and
Pink period and the earthy terracotta tones of both paintings anticipate Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), the
first Cubist masterpiece. In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Stein insists she sat for her portrait at least
80 times but Picasso painted the head from memory, testimony to the fact that it was his personal vision rather
than empirical reality per se. The result is a portrait “which nobody at that time liked except the painter and the
painted” (ABT 6). Lubar insists that the portrait draws attention to the complex economy of psychic and social
exchanges between the painter and the sitter.
In this context Picasso’s effacement of Stein’s head, tantamount to decapitation and his belated substitution of a
mask are suggestive of the male painter’s anxious confrontation with queer desire. The mask serves as “a sign of
erasure, a violent effacement whose function is to contain and neutralize a perceived threat” (Lubar 59),
indicative of the narcissistic subjectivism which becomes central to the Cubist schema. The exploration of
another person then, collapses into self-examination. This early representation of an ‘intellectual’ woman, one
whose femininity exceeded definitional boundaries, feeds into Picasso’s Cubist aesthetic. Stein’s bulky form
and her asexual dress move away from the traditional objectification of women. The portrait challenges the
history of art and foregrounds a new way of looking. This first anxiety ridden encounter seems to feed into
Picasso’s Cubist representations, which overturn conceptions about the eroticized depiction of women in art.
Moreover, Picasso’s self assured retort to people who insisted on the lack of resemblance between the picture
and the subject points to one of the preoccupations of Cubism- the need to grapple with the ‘essence’ of things .
Proto-Cubism then can be explained as an endeavour to strip away layers of illusion in order to reveal the
physical essence of things. Stein’s early literary portrait of Picasso If I Told Him (1924), first published in
Vanity Fair, is a similar attempt to capture a resemblance of his genius. A long repetitive passage, characteristic
of Stein, addresses how one might create ‘resemblance’ in a verbal passage:
Exact resemblance. To exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as a
resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance
exactly a resemblance, exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.
(If I Told Him 1)
II) “Patriarchal Poetry needs rectification” (PP 116): Fashioning a new visual/ verbal syntax
This stress on cognition and perceptual processes of vision seems to be inherited from Cezanne . Cezanne’s
perception of a geometric relationship between forms and his shift away from a literal rendition of the illusion of
the third dimension feeds into the Cubist imposition of a geometric framework on reality and their
flattening of the pictorial surface. Picasso’s geometricized nudes in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) are
reminiscent of geometric shapes and striations visible in Cezanne’s Houses at L’estaque (1882-85). But Picasso
works his way around space, transforms his visual schemata and flattens his nude figures in two dimensions.
The arcs and the planes which dissect the anatomies of the female nudes on the left shatter the traditional idea of
bulk. This is even more evident to the right of the picture where ”linear and planar rhythms seem almost to
dominate Picasso’s contact with perceived reality” (Rosenblum 25). As with Cezanne perspective is rendered by
means of colour which complicates the ‘flatness’ of the cubist canvas. A grayish tone seems to point to a
background. At another vertical plane there is the suggestion of heavy curtains red and brown on the left, blue
and white on the right. Other coloured planes seem to represent the drapery of the figures.
This purely plastic orientation of Cubism is a far cry from Cezanne’s insistence on fidelity to nature and
emphasis on synthesis. Cubism marks the rupture of the artistic tradition that had prevailed since the
Renaissance and the subsequent creation of a new graphic syntax. The extent of revolutionary transformation is
evident in the first responses to Picasso’s Cubist canvases. Vollard famously denounced it as ‘the work of a
madman’ and Leo Stein as ‘Godalmighty rubbish’(O’Brian 166), Kozloff dismissed Cubism as ‘a massacre’,
Félix Fénéon advised Picasso to take up caricature, Max Jacob insisted it was ‘ugly’ while the Russian dealer
Tchoukine exclaimed, with tears in her eyes “What a loss for French Art”(Picasso 140).
The revolutionary Cubist aesthetic can be witnessed in Picasso’s confrontation with geometric forms, Iberian art,
and his deployment of the death imagery and masks which reaches its apotheosis in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
The grotesque heads on the right are clearly influenced by Negro sculpture. The influence of Cezanne’s Five
Bathers (1885-87) is discernible but the savagery is in line with the veneration of primitive societies in nineteenth
century art by the likes of Ingres and Gauguin. Though the markers of masculine presence are still present in
the picture, Les Demoiselles presents a marked change from The Harem (1906) where the gaze of the male viewer
lingers on female bodies. The anatomical distortion and barbarism involved in the depiction of the nudes seems
to underline the brutal sexism inherent in the painting.
Paradoxically, however, the harsh and angular rendition of the nudes turns the power play around. Picasso’s
deployment of the carnivalesque concept of the grotesque body counters voyeurism and distances and thwarts
desire. His paintings, violently phallocentric in so many ways “produce deconstructive effects precisely against
phallocentrism” (Derrida 59). These paradoxes make sure that some of Picasso’s most odious and diabolical
paintings can be read in interesting ways.
Stein, on the other hand, consciously inverts phallogocentric logic by rejecting linear perspective “no
structure…that is liberty” (TB 59) and foregrounding multiplicity using sophisticated linguistic devices in her
poetry. This order of meaning represents “a genuinely oppositional- that is anti-patriarchal and anti-logocentric
mode of signification” (DeKoven 83). Patriarchal Poetry (1927) proposes a conscious difference between Stein’s
ethic and “their origin and their history” (PP 115). Her deployment of free verse, destruction of grammar and
strange or absent punctuation draws attention to the theme of writing itself. She problematises what Kristeva
 calls “the thetic phase of the signifying process” (Kristeva 99) and breaks away from the paralyzing effect
of signification .
Stein lashes out at the perils of authoritarian and regulatory textual strategies “…patriarchal poetry left, right,
left” (PP 116), questions the referentiality of language and insists on the resignification of norms outside an
epistemological given “let it be which is it be which is it be….” (PP 113). Signification operates by social
consensus and the lack of adherence to traditional signification accounts for its “alternative, liberating newness
against the absorptive capacity of …established discourses” (Terdiman 13). This explains why the earliest
reactions to Stein’s work mirrored the hostility of Picasso’s critics. The Louisville Courier Journal, for example,
insisted that “the sentences… do not make complete sense, partial sense nor any other sense but nonsense” (Rev.
Stein’s dismemberment of language is reminiscent of Picasso’s condemnation of the continuity “Down with
style. Does God have a style?” (Picasso qtd. Malraux). The ostensible eclecticism of the Cubists reflects a
growing concern with the boundaries of knowledge. The lack of evolutionary coherence in Cubist narratives/
paintings disrupts the project of closure, undermining hegemonic ‘rationality’. The experimental diversity of
structure Picasso advocates is evident in the fractured texture of Fernande’s face in his Head of a Woman (1909).
However, the distinction between the background and the human form still persists in this painting. The
gradual annihilation of the human form is evident in The Portrait of Kahnweiler (1910) and The Portrait of
Ambrose Vollard (1910) where their respective faces are fractured into hundreds of smaller facet shapes.
This technique, typical of Picasso’s Analytical Cubist style, echoes his belief in the representation of multiple
dimensions of the subject, thereby “creating a many leveled world of dismemberment and discontinuity”
(Rosenblum 43). The cubist image is one of multiple times, perspectives and spaces. There is a superimposition of
layers of time giving a temporal collage that creates image depth. The simultaneous presence of different angles
propounds Bergsonian seamlessness for it implies a sequence of time embedded in a still image. The human
presence is denoted by distinguishing features such as Kahnweiler’s clasped hands and Vollard’s downcast eyes,
protruding jaw-bones and moustache but there is a conscious destruction of traditional motifs such as linear
perspective and chiaroscuro which lend evolutionary coherence to an artwork. The Cezannian “dialectical view
of the process of looking at nature” (Berger 1965: 52) is employed by the Cubists, albeit in an amplified form.
Picasso’s Cubism revels in breaking up objects, analyzing and reassembling them in an abstracted form.
In a similar fashion Stein fractures language from within. The absent referents, deferred signifieds and the
endless play of signifiers characterize the struggle in Tender Buttons (1914) which is “ridding myself of nouns”
(LIA 242).The sub-headings in Tender Buttons are misleading for what follows ‘Salad’, ‘Milk’, ‘Eggs’,
‘Apple’ or ‘A Box’ is anything but a definition of the thing. She uproots words from their traditional meanings
and dismantles the relationship between the signifier and the signified for “… slowly if you feel what is inside
the thing you do not call it by the name by which it is known” (LIA 242). Stein expresses her distaste for
nouns, challenges the importance of grammar “Forget about grammar and think about potatoes” (HTW 13)
 and perceives the world in ambiguities, thereby challenging a monolithic epistemology which relies on
categories, causation and dichotomizing. The continuum which is created between language, content and
narrative form makes her work triply subversive and manifests her desire to leave Patriarchal Poetry “in pieces”
(PP 133) rather than “at peace”(PP 133).
Her radical work subverts the kind of coherent referential meaning we expect in literature “Sugar is not a
vegetable” (TB 2). The repetitive rhythm “is it so is it so is it so”(TB 21), verbal punning “A virgin is a whole
virgin is judged made” (TB 10) and word play “Eat ting” (TB 27) draws attention to the multiplicity of
meanings of the same word . The very phrase “Lifting Belly” serves as a wandering symbol which evokes new
semantic meanings to itself as a signifier throughout the poem. Compare this to the recurrence of the word ‘Jou’
(Still Life With Chair Caning, 1911-12) in Picasso’s paintings. Jou could refer to le Journal, the French for
newspaper but also Jouer the French word for play, which is undoubtedly what both Stein and Picasso intend to
do with the reader/onlooker.
Consider for instance Picasso’s Girl with the Mandolin (1910). One can glimpse a breast, an arc of the mandolin,
fingers and parts of the silhouette in the network of planes but reality is no longer fixed and irrevocable. The
degree of fragmentation has progressed so far that it is tough to ascertain the reference to reality. The planes are
in constant flux and the incomplete cubes on the left lend an aura of fluidity to the painting. Picasso depicts the
interaction between the animate and the inanimate in a way such that the subject is distorted and replaced by a
newer reality, which in essence comprises the painter’s vision. The melding of the animate with the inanimate
leads to a successful “interlocking of phenomena” (Berger 1965: 59) and successfully replaces a single definition
of reality with multiple interpretations.
The monochromatic colour scheme is suited to the presentation of multiple, complex views of the object, which is
now reduced to overlapping, opaque and transparent planes. The simplification of the colour scheme by
Picasso provides a cue to Stein’s scrupulous avoidance of ornamental language consumed by the French
bourgeoisie under the Third Republic and mythical/allegorical references favoured by modernsists. Stein
uses a limited vocabulary but creates a new syntax by omitting some parts of speech, duplicating others and
scrambling sentences. The conceptual complexity is highlighted by the taut architectonic structure which is built
using prosaic vocabulary.The minimalism helps the viewer concentrate on the artist’s primary interest- the
structure of the form itself.
Visual and verbal minimalism is complimented by the Cubists’ choice of trivial subject matter. In Tender Buttons
Stein’s implicit critique of the exclusion of domesticity and ordinary language from high modernist art takes the
form of undoing definitional and prescriptive patterns in reference to everyday objects, utensils, meals and living
spaces. In a similar fashion Picasso’s Girl with the Mandolin, much like Braque’s Woman with Guitar (1913),
depicts his lover playing a stringed instrument. The Cubist lack of ornamentation, aestheticization of the
ordinary and the commonplace and insistence on multiple perspectives ensures an inversion of the bourgeois
glorification of ‘high’ art.
The fleeting glimpses of the feminine form in Girl with the Mandolin guide the reader but Picasso’s painting,
like Stein’s poetry, is amenable to multiple interpretations: all partial, none complete. However Stein’s acausal,
fragmentary and indeterminate narrative helps her challenge not just traditional epistemology but also invert
social codes regarding gender and (hetero)sexuality. The process of writing the ‘body’ into the text allows for
Stein’s “shattering entry into history” (Cixous 250).
III) “Lifting Belly is a Language”: Cubist ‘Body’ Politics
Stein’s work becomes doubly disruptive for her deployment of radically divergent linguistic paradigms of
syntax, semantic renderings and structure is closely linked to her hyphenated identity as Jewish homosexual
feminist “let her be let her try”(PP 121). The non habitual rhythms of the text help her learn the new alphabet of
her body “Kiss my lips. She did” (LB 19) and the impression of language in a free state, free to coalesce in
unacceptable ways repressed by dominant discursive practices leads to the creation of a new linguistic entity.
The cyclical and repetitive nature of her poetry represents a “dynamic liberation from all static categories”
(Berger 1965: 60) and is closely linked to feminine subjectivity.
Stein’s poetry can be understood as a paradigmatic example of what Kristeva calls ‘autonarration’ for it derives
impetus from the triadic relationship between life, ideology and writing. The matrix between sexual identity,
power and masquerade, evident in her early works such as Lifting Belly (1915-17) and Pink Melon Joy (1915)
which foreground her articulation of a lesbian identity “I want to tell about fire” (LB 4), question
phallogocentrism and assert her identity as a linguistic subject. Lauretis in a discussion on Wittig’s The Lesbian
Body (1975) insists that her lesbian project helps in “reconstituting the ‘body’ in a new erotic economy,
relearning to know it by another semiotics” (Lauretis 166). In a similar fashion Stein’s sexual and aesthetic
politics link her struggle to rewrite the ‘body’ beyond pre-coded convention to the question of syntax.
A similar emancipation of the woman’s ‘body’ can be gauged in Picasso’s 1912 painting Nude- I love Eva which
marks a culmination of the gradual and inexorable flattening of pictorial space in Cubism. Here the painter’s
vocabulary seems to be regularized to exclusively rectilinear and curvilinear elements. Picasso’s canvas
undermines classical representations of the nude, which Clark promotes as the ideal for the representation of the
female body. The lack of erotic appeal is instrumental to the deconstruction of the traditional model and the
revision of the female nude in art. What Mirzoeff terms the bodyscape now functions as a cluster of multiple
signs, dismantling the deeply embedded patriarchal idea of the woman’s body as a spectacle “to feed an
appetite” (Berger 1972: 55). The complex language of Picasso’s portraiture ensures that the woman’s body is no
longer an erotic object to be looked at. The continual shifting and rearrangement of planes and the lack of
traditional illusionistic devices which lends Cubism its complexity also has a corresponding effect of negating
what Mulvey calls fetishistic scopophilia. The sexual identity of the signatory then need not influence the
ideological leanings of the text completely. The freighted topos of Picasso’s paintings underlines the complex
ways in which “phallocentrism and logocentrism are indissoluble” (Derrida 59).
IV) “The conclusion came when there was no arrangement” (TB 31): Celebratin pluridimensionality
The sophisticated syntax of Cubism foregrounds a complex interchange between art and reality which redefines
spatial and temporal relations. Picasso’s canvases and Stein’s texts destabilize relationships between artist and
model, viewer and painting, reader and text, the self and the world. The lack of evolutionary coherence forces us
to accept an open ended text. These ‘writerly’ texts function as communicative acts which initiate a dialogue
with the reader/spectator who is “no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (Barthes 6) and reconstructs
them in infinite ways. Lifting Belly for instance lacks a stable authoritative centre. The dialogue at the beginning
of the poem “Do not forget that I showed you the road” (LB 4) is marked by indeterminacy. Is the poetic
persona representative of Leo Stein? Is Gertrude Stein talking to Alice? Or is she addressing Picasso? The
overlapping planes of Picasso’s 1910 Nude reflect a similar ambiguity. Is there one woman? Who is the woman?
Where is her head? Where are her feet?
Stein’s repetitive, illogical and sparse punctuation, non-teleological narrative and pregnant pauses transcribe
Picasso’s aesthetic in words. Literary text and artistic style thus becomes interlocked. For the twenty first century
reader their works exist in a dialogue with each other. The presence of pluridimensionality in Picasso’s paintings
and Stein’s poetry challenges logocentric hegemony ”There are no arrangements” (TB 37). Interestingly there is
a celebration of this the crisis in narrative “A whole inside a part” (TB 29) which makes Stein and Picasso unique
V) “What is the custom? The custom is in the centre” (TB 8): From Outlaw to Classic
Picasso and Stein thus are linked through shared vision and shared technique. The poems/paintings fashion a
counter-discourse as they make way for a deconstruction of the dominant discourse through syntax/ visual
imagery and try to enact a space different from the totalizing potential of patriarchal discourse.
The constitutive limitations of this alternative discourse are evident in the way both Picasso and Stein were co-
opted by bourgeois ethics. This subtle process of what Pierre Daix labels embourgeoisment marks the limits of
Cubism as a mode of cultural resistance. This is apparent in the shift which can be traced in Stein’s works. From
an overt acknowledgement of her lesbian desire in her early poetry “Lifting Belly is so gratifying”(LB 14) and
her love for Alice B. Toklas “ I love, cherish, idolize, adore and worship you”(LB 19) there is a shift to oblique
suggestion of eroticism in Patriarchal Poetry “wet inside and pink outside” (PP 121). Finally there is a complete
effacement of this erotic subtext in her later works including The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1937).
The only incident which mentions their relationship apes the heterosexual model of marriage “The geniuses
came and talked to Gertrude Stein and the wives came and sat with me” (ABT). Hints of this can be traced in
Lifting Belly as well where Stein assertively refers to Alice as “my wife” (LB 39) and insists “I am the man” (LB
51), voicing ownership a la patriarchal model. Similarly Picasso’s passionate disavowal of any programs and his
early refusal to exhibit, representative of his artistic rebelliousness was replaced by his constant presence at art
soireés in later years. This descent into a routinised, hierarchised economy of commodity production can also be
witnessed in Picasso’s adoption of a variegated palette after his (Analytical) Cubist phase and Stein’s reversion to
comprehensible texts such as The Autobiography of Alice. B. Toklas and Picasso, a far cry from the
obscurantism of her early days. The pioneering outlaws of the Parisian avant-garde eventually acquired the
contours of classics. Stein perhaps foresaw this nuanced process whereby the eccentric ‘ex-centricity’ of an
anti-bourgeois libertarian gets transmuted into enshrinement by the Academy and eventual canonicity when
she said: “The creator of the new composition of art is an outlaw until he is a classic; there is barely a moment in
between…” (CE 514).
For that historical moment, however, these two exemplars of the Parisian avant-garde successfully espoused an
assault on bourgeois order by their landmark aesthetic and semiological innovations, the fashioning of a new
space of social exchange and destabilizing the divide between public and private, aesthetic and commercial.
Cubist paintings and poetic techniques bespeak the energies of avant-garde innovation and an enthusiastic
embrace of ambiguity thereby recreating the syntax of art to provide the most fitting rendition of the twentieth
century experience of ‘modernity’. It is an examination of the cubist aesthetics of Gertrude Stein and Pablo
Picasso that paves way for an affirmative answer to the pertinent question: How far is it possible to conjoin
Modernity and Revolution?
 All quotes attributed to Kahnweiler, Vollard, Ruiz, Eugeni d’ Ors, Braque and Max Jacob are from the Appendix (I) to Josep Palau
i Fabre’s book titled Picasso Cubism 1907-1917 unless specified.
 Interestingly, both Pablo Picasso and Diego Ruiz were from Malaga and the latter penned his short story titled Contes d’un
Filosof in 1907, the year Picasso painted his monumental Les Demoiselles d’Avignon which heralded the advent of Cubism.
 “…counter –discourses are never sovereign” (Terdiman 18)
 Younger collectors with relatively modest means i.e. Denichéur peopled Paris. Many amonst them were exiles from other
countries: Gertrude Stein and Leo Stein from America, Wilhelm Uhde and Adolphe Baster from Germany, Vincene Kramar from
Prague. Their importance in the creation of the Parisian avant-garde cannot be disregarded.
 The artist’s biographer insists on the active role Gertrude Stein played in promoting the artist. Stein “helped to make Picasso’s
name known among those who could buy his works.” (O’Brien 140)
 The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
 See ABT. It is hard to overestimate the importance of Steins’ patronage. Picasso’s work was to be found at the shops of junk
dealers like Sagot before the Steins started investing in his paintings.
 I am not suggesting that this is the only way of reading Stein’s works. Wassestrom coins the word ‘sursymamericubealism’ to
denote the multiplicity of influences on her. However I intend to tease out the presence/absence of Cubist elements in Tender Buttons
(1914), Lifting Belly (1915-17), Patriarchal Poetry (1927), Picasso (1938) and The Autobiography of Alice B.Toklas (1937) and
trace a trajectory based on the years of composition (not printing).
 I will focus only on Picasso’s Analytical Cubist works. The word Cubism is used to describe his oeuvre between 1907 and 1912
within this paper.
 “When I say Cubists, of course it is understood that it was Picasso with his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon who was the first”
(Max Jacob, letter to Réne Rimbert, March 1922)
 I use the word ‘narcissism’ to foreground both Stein’s and Picasso’s self-congratulatory nature. ”I have been the creative mind
of the century”, “Think of the Bible and Homer, think of Shakespeare and me” (Stein qtd Kostelanetz), “I (Picasso) do paint better
than he (Toulouse Lautrec) did” (ABT 10).
 It is Gertrude Stein’s usurpation of traditionally ‘masculine’ domains as a producer of literature and connoisseur of avant-garde
that ensured her prominence within the avant-garde community.
 To people who insisted that Stein did not look like the depiction in her portrait, Picasso is reported to have said “she will”.
 “… to paint seeking a new expression, divested of useless realism, with a method linked only to my thought, without enslaving
myself or associating myself with objective reality”(Picasso qtd. O’Brien)
 Patriarchal Poetry.
 In ‘Pictures’ (Lectures in America) Stein insists on calling Cézanne the original muse of her career.
Picasso is said to have told Brassai “He was my one and only master… Cezanne” (Picasso qtd. O’Brien) while the Cubist manifesto
of 1912 claims “He who understands Cezanne, is close to Cubism”(Glizes and Metzinger 4)
 Notice the omission of detail and the defamiliarisation of landscape (houses atop the trees and fields atop the sky) in Mont Saint-
 Louis Vauxcelles first used the word Cubism in 1908 on seeing one of Braque’s paintings which he described as being ‘full of
 Recent readings suggest that the representation of women in Les demoiselles cannot be considered unambiguously misogynist.
Patricia Leighton, in a provocative reading, boldly argues that Picasso’s use of African sculpture is reflective of his sympathies for
anti-colonialist efforts. The purpose behind this de-idealisation of the human form, according to Leighton “was to evoke a larger
Africa, with all its associations of Colonial exploitation, legalized slavery and resistance to French Rule” (Leighton 234).
 French feminism sits well with Stein’s writing for both represent an “anti-bourgeois form of libertarianism” (Moi 177) and insist
that the feminine cannot be inscribed in common language. The resultant obscurantism, paradigmatic of Stein’s poetry is thus
 Stein’s anticipates Wittig “The language you speak is made of words that are killing you” (Les Guerrillers 122) and Irigaray
“Hers are contradictory words, somewhat mad from the standpoint of reason, inaudible for whoever listens to them with ready-made
grids” (This Sex Which Is Not One 29).
 Berger insists that Picasso’s paintings, in their need to destruct ‘everything’, echo an Anarchism which is typical of late
nineteenth-early twentieth century Spain.
 Lectures in America.
 This interest in linguistics could be a result of William James’ influence on Stein. James who taught Stein at Harvard, broods on
similar themes in Psychology “We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but and a feeling of by as readily as we
say a feeling of blue and a feeling of cold” (James qtd. Levinson)
 This mirrors Picasso’s comment: “The label apple green on a tube on paint… is neither an apple nor the colour, but an
assemblage of words, a label good for setting you off the track” (Picasso qtd. Sabartés)
 How to Write.
 The faceted planes of Picasso’s Cubist portraits, although similar throughout a painting, refer to different elements of a motif in
 Eugeni d’Ors laments this minimalism in La Veu de Catalunya when he exclaims: “Art was so beautiful under Impressionism…
indolence and sensuality, colours and voluptuousness… now we are in Lent”
 William Carlos Williams observed that Stein succeeds in disentangling words from the weight of history, “the burden science,
philosophy and every higgledy-piggledy figment of law and order they had been laying on them in the past”(Williams 116)
 Linguistic compression links Stein to Imagist writers including Pound and H.D. However, Stein’s work is characterized by a
polyvocality which defies all monolithic labels (modern, post-modern, feminist etc).
 Both Braque and Picasso worked in close collaboration, which is one reason why their paintings are hardly distinguishable. “We
lived in Montamarte, we saw each other everyday, we spoke. During those years Picasso and I said to each other things that noone
else would ever say again… that no one could ever understand” (Braque)
 For Pollock it is this dismantling of traditional expectations which is intrinsic to empowering art painted by women. This could
be the reason behind the adoption of Picasso’s Cubist strategies by women like Tamara de Lempicka ( See Reclining Nude and
 I have in mind Eliot’s metaphor of rebirth in The Wasteland and Woolf’s deployment of the trope of the party in Mrs. Dalloway
as literary stratagems which lend coherence to essentially fractured ‘modernist’ narratives.
 Stein wrote three portraits of Picasso. The early portraits (1911 an 1923) are characterized by linguistic experimentation
“shutters shut and shutters and so shutters shut and shutters…” (If I Told Him 1) but her later work titled Picasso (1938) is marked
by a stark absence of any experimentation whatsoever.
 This is evident in the increasing number of dealers (Sergei Shchukin, Frank Haviland, Roger Dutilleul) who were interested in
purchasing Cubist masterpieces as opposed to the earlier distaste for them.
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