Author and art collector Gertrude Stein holds an infamous place in Oakland lore. She is the source of the often un-contectualized and misused quote, “there is no there, there,” frequently used to down Oakland. Beyond that, not many Oaklanders are too familiar with her.
She was recently catapulted back into the public consciousness, 65 years after her death, thanks to her portrayal by Kathy Bates in this year’s Oscar-nominated film, Midnight In Paris. In it we witness our infamous Oakland girl acting as den mother to Paris’s Jazz Age art scene–mentoring such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. In the process, Stein and her brother, Leo, accumulated a world class art collection that included paintings by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, and Matisse. Art critic Henry McBride noted that Stein “collected geniuses rather than masterpieces. She recognized them a long way off.” And in 1968, the New York Times called Stein’s salon “the first Museum of Modern Art.” Not too shabby for an Oakland girl!
One could delve deeply into the life and legacy of the art-collecting literary lesbian, but for the sake of the Town, Oakland author Matt Werner (not to be confused with Thizzler.com‘s EIC Em Dub) chose to research the origin and context of Stein’s famous, “There is no there, there” quote. For the uninitiated, the misrepresentation of this quote is the reason you’ll find the HERE, THERE public art piece on MLK at the Oakland-Berkeley border, and why the Tribune tower occasionally flies a flag that reads, “THERE.”
To learn what Stein meant by this quote and learn more about her Oakland roots, be sure to check out Werner’s article over at Google Books’s blog.