“If you enjoy my work you understand it… if you don’t enjoy it, why do you make a fuss about it?
These were Gertrude Stein’s slightly sharp-elbowed words pronounced sixty-nine years ago to an interviewer at at New York’s Algonquin Hotel upon her arrival in America to record The Making of Americans and some of her other works. The lecture tour had bestseller wind beneath its sails, as The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas had been published to raves in 1933. The opera she created with Virgil Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts, was opening on Broadway. Suddenly Stein had become rich, a condition she’d never before known.
On October 24, 1934, Stein and Toklas arrived in New York aboard the S.S. Champlain. The crowds and the press went wild. One newspaper headline read: Gerty Gerty Stein is Back Home Home Back. Tickertape lights flashed across The New York Times building announced her arrival.
Stein had not been in the United States in nearly thirty years. Now, for seven months, with Toklas at her side, she crisscrossed America, speaking to campuses, arts groups and museum audiences about her writing and love of modern painting.
Early in 1935 she published Lectures in America, with a patriotic picture tucked inside the front cover.
Seventy appearances later, her celebrityhood held strong. An observer described the two travelers: “a large lady firmly dressed in a shirt-waist and skirt and jacket, and a smaller lady in something dark with a gray astrakhan toque…slightly suggestive of a battleship and a cruiser.” A headline in the New York Sun read: Miss Stein a Wow; Her Lectures a Sellout She’s Such a Hit.
Francis Picabia did her in oils in 1933. Stein was a star!