The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art/Yale University Press (Inbooks), $95 hb, 492 pp
Despite its unrewarding title, The Steins Collect, both exhibition and catalogue, tells the most captivating story of early modern art and its patronage. The cast of characters ranges from the downright difficult (Leo) and the overweeningly self-important (Gertrude) to sunny Californian idealists (Sarah and Michael). Gertrude and her brother Leo set up their joint ménage at 27 rue de Fleurus, close to the Luxembourg Gardens, in 1903. A year later, Michael, their elder brother, and his wife, Sarah, settled in Paris and lived close by at 58 rue Madame. By 1909 the two households had assembled the largest and finest collection of Matisse and Picasso anywhere. Though comfortably off, the Steins were not remotely among the super-rich, yet only the Russian collectors, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, at the end of the decade, would challenge their supremacy.