Monday, January 2, 2012

Portrait of the artist as an old woman

I don't know why, but I've been thinking about Gertrude Stein. Perhaps because, now that my hair is entirely grey, I'm thinking of cutting it really short.

Perhaps I might look like Gertrude Stein in old age. She strikes me as someone who looked her best as an old woman, as though this was the way she was meant to look.

She was born at the wrong time (1874)  to look right as a young woman. Those Victorian dresses and long hair didn't suit her.

Unlike Virginia Woolf (born 1882), for whom Victorian clothes (if not ideas) suited very well.

And then there's the famous portrait of Stein by Picasso.

The painting of this portrait is described in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

"Spring was coming and the sittings were coming to an end. All of a sudden one day Picasso painted out the whole head. I can't see you any longer when I look, he said irritably. And so the picture was left like that."

But later on he painted in the head very quickly, from memory.

And not long after, Stein cut off her long hair, so she no longer had the characteristic topknot.  I read somewhere that someone (Who? Stein herself?) said it didn't really look like her.

But it will, said Picasso.

He was obviously confident of his power as an image-maker.

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