Félix Edouart Vallotton (1865–1925)
Oil on canvas, 1907
Baltimore Museum of Art; The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.300
© Fondation Félix Vallotton, Lausanne, Switzerland
Photography by Mitro Hood
The young Pablo Picasso was the first artist to ask Gertrude Stein to sit for a portrait; Swiss artist Félix Vallotton was the second. Both were inspired to request a sitting after Gertrude and her brother Leo had purchased and installed their paintings in the Stein studio at 27, rue de Fleurus in Paris. The artists then gave Gertrude their portraits for the collection, launching a remarkable patron-friend-artist dynamic that continued for the rest of her life. Vallotton painted Gertrude in the long, unbelted corduroy robe she wore at the salons, accessorizing it with a stickpin at the neck and a long Chinese chain of lapis and malachite fastened with a coral pin at her waist. In pulling Stein’s head back from the picture plane and making her robe a monolithic platform for her massive head and hands, Vallotton rendered her a female Buddha. By the late 1920s, his interpretation of Stein as imperious, remote, and ageless became the common one.