Mothers of American Modernism

Final Project must be presented at Pacific’s Undergraduate Research Conference (PURCC) held in the spring of each year.

Both Gertrude Stein and Mabel Dodge Luhan were influential in spreading the ideas of Modernism. Stein, as an American expatriate, did so primarily from Paris, and Luhan from the American southwest. Strong willed, highly independent and opinionated they each hosted social gatherings called soirées or salons to which the modernist artists, writers and musicians of the time gathered, shared their work and their ideas well into the early morning hours.

Other Relevant issues/influences:



Gertrude Stein painted by Pablo Picasso, 1906

Gertrude Stein
“A rose
is a rose
is a rose”
(February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) Ms Stein was born during the time of Reconstruction following the Civil War, living to see the end of WWII. She was an American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector. Born in the Allegheny West neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and raised in Oakland, California, Stein moved to Paris in 1903, and made France her home for the remainder of her life. Author of Three Lives and Tender Buttons. Gertrude Stein came to her brother Leo’s Paris atelier in 1903 where she began her lifelong passion for art and her writing career. Her writing style was deeply influenced by what the painters she admired were doing, particularly by Picasso. The experience of Picasso painting the portrait of her in 1906, signaled both the beginning of Cubism in Modern Art and modern literature in her writing. In the ’20’s, she and Alice B. Toklas were regularly hosting soirées in her Parisian home at 27 rue de Flours where the leading figures of modernism in literature and art gathered, including:

CUBISM (fragmentation, multi-view, subdued color) the art movement which influence all of art and design movements which have followed. Cubism should be are instead to be thought of as a major influences on the all the other artists that came after them.
 Cubism (


“If the trees look yellow to the artist, then painted a bright yellow they must be.”Paul Gauguin Signature

The Fauves (“wild beasts”), the first twentieth-century movement in modern art was initially inspired by the work of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne. Several had been pupils of the Symbolist artist Gustave Moreau and admired the older artist’s emphasis on personal expression. Matisse emerged as the leader of the group, whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as means of communicating the artist’s emotional state. In these regards, Fauvism proved to be an important precursor to Cubism and Expressionism as well as a touchstone for future modes of abstraction.

One of Fauvism’s major contributions to modern art was its radical goal of separating color from its descriptive, representational purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as an independent element. Color could project a mood and establish a structure within the work of art without having to be true to the natural world.
Another of Fauvism’s central artistic concerns was the overall balance of the composition. The Fauves’ simplified forms and saturated colors drew attention to the inherent flatness of the canvas or paper; within that pictorial space, each element played a specific role. The immediate visual impression of the work is to be strong and unified.
Above all, Fauvism valued individual expression. The artist’s direct experience of his subjects, his emotional response to nature, and his intuition were all more important than academic theory or elevated subject matter. All elements of painting were employed in service of this goal.
The paintings of the Fauves were characterized by seemingly wild brush work and strident colors, while their subject matter had a high degree of simplification and abstractionFauvism can be classified as an extreme development of Van Gogh’s Post-Impressionism fused with the pointillism of Seurat and other Neo-Impressionist painters, in particular Paul Signac. Other key influences were Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, whose employment of areas of saturated color—notably in paintings from Tahiti—strongly influenced Derain’s work at Collioure in 1905. In 1888 Gauguin had said to Paul Sérusier: “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermilion.” Fauvism can also be seen as a mode of Expressionism.

Use this link to download a PowerPoint slide show containing images from some of the major designers of the Avant Garde. These are not necessarily designers who had direct influence on Stein or vice versa.
• avant garde ppt

Use this link to read Avant Garde manifestos.
• manifestos.


Mabel Dodge Luhan painted by Nicolai Fechin, 1927

Mabel Dodge Luhan
(February 26, 1879 – August 13, 1962) Salon hostess, writer, and muse. Born shortly after Stein, but living a longer life, Dodge-Luhan began having artist soirées while living in Florence Italy (1904–1912).“You attract, stimulate, and suit people, and men like to sit with you and talk to themselves! You make them think more fluently, and they feel enhanced. If you had lived in Greece long ago, you would have been called a hetaira. Now why don’t you see what you can do with this gift of yours? Why not organize all this accidental, unplanned activity around you, this coming and going of visitors, and see these people at certain hours. Have Evenings!”—Lincoln Steffens.Upon returning to America and on Steffens urging she discovered New Mexico. She felt an immediate attraction [to Taos]: “My world broke in two right then, and I entered into the second half, a new world.” She dreamed of establishing Taos as the birthplace for a new American civilization, one not based on getting and spending, or on the redistribution of wealth.Mabel published the 1,600 page, three volume set, the  Intimate Memories series: European Experiences (1935), Movers and Shakers (1936), and Edge of Taos Desert (1937) and also Winter in Taos (1935) and Taos and Its Artists (1947). In vivid and compelling prose, she explored the momentous changes in sexuality, politics, art, and culture that moved Americans from the Victorian into the modern age. Noted for assembling and inspiring some of the leading creative men and women of her day. She was a “mover and shaker” of national and international renown during her lifetime (1879–1962). Lois Palken Rudnick, Luhan’s biographer, has abridged the original volumes into one book (Intimate Memories) that highlights Luhan’s struggles for self-expression and community: from Gilded Age Buffalo, New York; to Florence, Italy; to radical Greenwich Village in New York; and, finally, to Taos, New Mexico, where she met and eventually married her fourth husband, Antonio Luhan, a Taos Pueblo Indian.

Mabel thought that D.H. Lawrence was the “only one who can really see this Taos country and the Indians, and who can describe it so that it is as much alive between the covers of a book as it is in reality.” D.H. Lawrence is best known for his infamous novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” which was banned in the United States until 1959. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. In addition to Lawrence, Mabel invited many artists and writers to her artist colony in Taos, New Mexico including:

After visiting Taos for the first time in 1923 at the invitation of Mabel Dodge Luhan and then returning to London, D. H. Lawrence held a dinner party at the Cafe Royal (which he called “The Last Supper”). There he tried to recruit friends to move to Taos in order “to create a utopian society he called ‘Rananim’”, an idea which he had first proposed in a letter of 3 January 1915. While almost all who attended had “agreed to follow Lawrence to New Mexico….when it came to the actual packing for departure, there was only one recruit – the Honorable Dorothy Brett”.


Painted Windows Mable Dodge Luhan House—D.H Lawrence

dorothy brett 3.php


John Reed


Sketch Georgia O’Keefe—Nicolai Fechine


Moonrise Over Taos Pueblo—Ansel Adams


Martha Graham


Rancho de Taos Mission, New Mexico—Laura Gilpin


Cover of 291, No 4 1915—John Marin

(May 4, 1884 – May 8, 1968), a sociologist and writer, was an American social reformer and Native American advocate. He served as Commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, from 1933 to 1945. He was chiefly responsible for the “Indian New Deal,” especially the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, through which he intended to reverse a long-standing policy of Cultural assimilation of Native Americans.


John Collier


Taos Mountain—Marsden Hartley



Images of the Great Depression—Dorthea Lange

ASSIGNMENT—Due Monday, May   7 (during Finals Week)

Create a “book” of six artists from the Avant Garde salons of Gertrude Stein and Mable Dodge.

For this assignment the definition of a “book” is quite broad. Book here means a sequential collection/arrangement of information. Its form might look like a codex (traditional western book with pages bound along the spine), however, it might also look quite different from that form. Social media, video and animation are also examples of other media that your book form might take. The key here is that there is a controlled or designed sequence in the way that your information is presented to the reader. There might be a certain amount of randomness planned for in this sequence, but it is certainly not “scrapbooking”.

Include an introduction to your book which describes/outlines the influence of Stein and Dodge/Luhan on the the Avant Garde and also on the specific artists you choose. 3 of your artists should be from the soirées of Gertrude Stein and 3 from the circle around Mable Dodge.

An example of how you might approach this book assignment would be to imagine if those artists were alive today, what would they be experimenting with? What would their work look like based upon an understanding of their earlier works? What would inspire them today? You might interpret this question in either of these ways:

  • By looking at the work they created during their lifetime as inspiration, how would those styles have evolved today. So, you could include your own designs created “in the style” of your artists, but show their original works that you are referencing.
  • By looking at social/political issues that shaped their lives in the early 20th century what issues of today would they likely be reacting to. Are their any similarities between the “Lost Generation” and the “Millennial Generation?” So, pick issues of today and create works “in the style” of your artists being influenced by them. Also, show their original works that you are referencing.

You might also imagine how would they be writing today? Certainly they would be doing so in unconventional ways, pushing their capabilities to the limit, perhaps trying to “break” language. Social media writing styles, use of emoji, iconic or symbolic visual forms, concrete poetry, rap/spoken word, unconventional spellings and experimental typography are possible directions here. Experimental and Extreme are the two words that best describe this approach. Examples of how you might interpret this question:

  • By looking at the writing style they explored during their lifetime as inspiration, create works “in the style” of your authors. Also, show passages from their original works that you are referencing.
  • By looking at the form and choice of subject matter that characterized their work create works “in the style” of your authors. Also, show passages from their original works that you are referencing.

Your book must contain a minimum of the following information for each person:

  • The overall form of the book must reflect the ideals of the Avant Garde—(an experimental choice of materials, colors, sizes, shapes, type styles, binding, treatment of images, textures, photomechanical processes, etc.)
  • The overall content of the book must reflect the information that is relevant to each artist. Together, your decisions about both form and content should not simply be something that looks like it was created during the artist’s lifetime, but instead if they were alive today, what would their work look like. However, base this look on a clear understanding of what they were doing back in the early years of the 20th Century. Look not only at their style but also at how Stein or Dodge influenced their work
    • Introduction page, Indicate how Stein or Dodge had an influence on the work for each of the 6 artist/authors.
    • Gertrude Stein page
    • Mable Dodge page
    • an image for each of the 6 artist/authors
    • a short biography for each of the 6 artist/authors
    • a quote from each of the 6 artist/authors
    • dates (birth, death) for each of the 6 artist/authors
    • Visual examples of the style of the specific artist/author on his/her page(s)
    • Present this information in the style of the artist/author you have chosen. This should end up being a visual examples of your reinterpretation or evolution of their style.

Explore concepts such as:

  • transparency
  • illusionary space
  • cropping the image
  • involve white space, figure/ground
  • create variety by fragmentation, layering
  • lines of continuity

Use the lists of artists listed above in the sections on Dodge or Stein as examples of major players and perhaps easier to find research on. You may also choose other artists that I have not listed there but they must have been somehow associated with Stein or Dodge.