Gertrude Stein

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904–1980)
Gelatin silver print, 1937
The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
London, England

Cecil Beaton made one sly and parodic portrait of Stein, a montage of two images from his first photo shoot in 1937. Stein stands in the foreground in hat and coat, and in the background—in a much smaller image—wearing a skirt, blouse, and vest. Stein is married to herself, the montage suggests, imperial Stein to lesbian Stein. Beaton, in his diary for 1939, began to call Stein “General,” echoing those who for more than a decade had noted something domineering in her dress and manner. In this instance, he used the same composition he commonly used for couples—dominant male and supportive female—to interpret Stein’s immense self-love.