Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Francis Picabia (1879–1953)
Oil on canvas, 1933
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Francis Picabia’s portrait of Stein is completely imaginary and interpretive. Created not from life but from memory, the artist rendered Stein as a neo-Roman seated on a wall with a near-empty landscape stretching out behind her. She wears a striped tunic over one shoulder and a toga wrapped loosely around her knees and behind her back.

In her everyday life, Stein never went sleeveless in public, never wore transparent clothing, and rarely wore makeup. Picabia’s portrait of her with slicked-back hair, sagging breasts, visible nipples, and rouged lips plays with gender codes and teeters on the edge of parody.