Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When Frank Lloyd Wright Met Gertrude Stein

© Roy R. Behrens
Above Nuanced double portrait of American expatriate writers Gertrude Stein (left) and Alice B. Toklas, a digital montage that was published originally in Roy R. Behrens, COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier (Dysart IA: Bobolink Books, 2005, p. 86). Copyright © Roy R. Behrens.


It goes without saying that American architect Frank Lloyd Wright could be outspoken now and then. He was blunt, to put it mildly. Today we would scold him for political incorrectness, rudeness, maybe even bigotry.

See for example the behind-the-scenes descriptions of his two meetings with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, one of which took place in Paris and the other in Madison WI. His memories of those encounters were recorded in the diary of one of his Taliesin East students: Priscilla J. Henken, Taliesin Diary: A Year with Frank Lloyd Wright (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012). Here are two excerpts—

Entry dated Saturday, November 7, 1942 (p. 50):
As for Paris, FLW met Gertrude Stein there. Spoke of her influence on Picasso & the other "moderns," strange because she was the most unattractive, uninteresting & dull person he had ever spoken to. At a lecture she gave, she wore a man's jacket, an ankle-length skirt cut like men's trousers, and he strongly suspects a wig to cover—yes, he really thinks she was bald. Told the derivation of name Alice B. Toklas—Gertie wanted to do all the talking, so she said "Alice, be talkless."

Entry dated Saturday, January 29, 1943 (p. 109):
[FLW] Described meeting Gertrude Stein in Madison [c1933] on lecture tour—they were invited to her hotel room—she said Wright was familiar to her but she couldn't tell why. Alice B. Toklas sat behind her like a kind of guardian angel, and when they [the Wrights] invited her to the Fellowship, she hesitated, & said, "But we like to fly. We want to fly to Milwaukee." And they nudged and pinched each other, and Alice said, "yes, we like to fly."


Roland Penrose (note about a conversation with Pablo Picasso), quoted in Elizabeth Cowling, Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Diaries of Roland Penrose (London: Thames and Hudson, 2006, p. 96)—

Talked of G. Stein—[Picasso] has very low opinion of her and her "talents."

See also: Roy R. Behrens, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016).