Story 2: Domestic Stein
Each room is as satisfying as the solution of a mathematical problem. . . There is nothing to offend the eye. The food is the best . . . for Alice . . .watches her cook with a rapier eye.
– Sir Cecil Beaton, British photographer, The Wandering Years, 1939
Home was central to Stein. She did all of her writing and entertained guests in domestic spaces filled with art. She walked in her neighborhood daily, never taking the Métro or sitting in cafés. She traveled little except in summer, when she sought the countryside in Italy and Spain, and later in the south of France. She often said that stability at home gave her freedom to make radical contributions to literature and the arts.
Her partnership with Alice B. Toklas (1877–1967), from 1910 until Stein’s death in 1946, was key to her tranquil domestic life. This story recounts how these women met and fashioned their homes and dress. After World War I they abandoned bohemian casualness for more elegant living spaces, continually rearranging and updating the furnishings of their homes. Alice took charge of the kitchen and its cooks, creating imaginative Franco-American meals and elaborate teatimes. A talented seamstress, she also oversaw the couple’s manner of dress—mannish for Stein and ultrafeminine for Toklas—giving them a distinctive style as a lesbian couple.
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