'I don't like crows, I don't like crows': Gertrude Stein relates Matisse's aversion to metaphorical crows and other private stories

Stein, Gertrude, American writer, poet and art collector (1874-1946). Autograph letter signed ("Gertrude").

[Paris, 22 Nov. 1910 - postmark].

8vo. 8 pp. on bifolia. Includes autograph envelope. In a modern red quarter morocco linen folding case with gilt title to spine.


A charming private letter to Hortense Moses, née Guggenheimer (1876-1918), a close friend in Baltimore, with an interesting anecdote concerning the death of Henri Matisse's father and news from Leo Stein and Gertrude Stein's partner Alice B. Toklas. Stein first inquires whether some unspecified "pictures", probably paintings destined for the collection of the Cone sisters, reached Baltimore safely and asks for confirmation, speculating that a previous letter to this effect might have got lost in the mail. She then discusses the sudden onset of winter from which Matisse tried to escape in Spain, but alas, "there was rain and snow in Madrid and no comfort excepting near the stove." The anecdote concerning Matisse's father Émile is worth quoting in full: "His father has just died and he was quite used up with the excitements of that event and the depressing effects of French mournings. I don't believe anyone can wear such terribly black mourning as French women do. He told me that he had seen his mother and his wife and daughter go down the street to be in mourning and then in the middle of the night he began to feel badly and he found himself saying 'I don't like crows, I don't like crows'. They had a very queer scene. The father had had his life insured and when the widow was told that she was to have the money she got very excited and she said she would throw the money in the face of anyone who offered it to her, she would never make money out of her husband's death. Finally, she said she was willing to have her two sons […] share it, whereupon Matisse's wife got excited and said she would never speak to her husband again if he took his mother's money which she ought to have to live well with and so Matisse said it was difficult as his mother would not have the money because her husband was dead and the son could not have it because the mother was living".

With respect to her brother Leo, Stein mentions that changes in the house with a new atelier provided him with a "very comfortable room", which also allowed for to a "better arrangement" of their famous art collection. Alice, on the other hand, was spending "all her evenings in the kitchen", being excited about her new "gas stove" and had Gertrude ask Hortense Moses for "good recipes for corn bread and beaten biscuit".

In closing, she mentions her fondness for Hortense's son Richard (Dickey), to whom she sends "three kisses", as symbolized by three small dotted circles; home-sickness for family and friends in Baltimore, their cook Hélène who thinks that "America is very far away" and is a "pessimist", and her purchase of "a horse to keep company with my two cows. They look very handsome together".

The Steins met Hortense Guggenheim, a cousin of the Cone sisters, when attending John Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore (1897-1902) and remained close friends ever after.


Roy Davids Ltd., 25 May 1998. Christie's New York, 25 April 1995, lot 241. Bernard Quaritch Ltd., 20 March 1981.


On stationery with Stein's red stamped address "27 Rue de Fleurus". Minimally soiled, with one insignificant stain.

Stock Code: BN#63586 Tags: , ,