Would there have been avant-garde art and literature without Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas? Possibly, but they had a seminal influence in the careers of Matisse and Picasso among others, setting the tone of modern art for decades to come. The Paris apartment they shared at 27 rue de Fleurus became the epicenter of new art and writing as well as a hub of influence on music, fashion, and a emerging sense of freedom for LGBT people all over the world.
Stein and Toklas were both California girls, but met in Paris. After the death of Stein's parents, she followed her brother Leo to Paris, in 1903, where he was studying art. In 1907, Stein met Alice B. Toklas; the women were immediately drawn to each other. Toklas began daily visits to Stein at the Rue de Fleurus apartment to take care of secretarial work for her. Stein took Toklas on as an unofficial pupil and began transmitting her culture-changing perceptions about art to Toklas. Eventually Alice moved in to 27 rue de Fleurus and Leo moved out. They kept the apartment together until Stein's death in 1946.
Alice on the left, Piazza San-Marco, Venice, circa 1908.
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