Stein, Leo, 1872-1947

Alternative names
Birth 1872
Death 1947-07-29

Biographical notes:

Leo Stein (1872-1947) shared the enthusiasm for art and literature with his sister, Gertrude, when they lived together in Paris during the early part of the 20th century. After his break with her in 1913, he concentrated on painting and aesthetic criticism.

From the description of Leo Stein Collection 1892-1950. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81096298

From the description of Leo Stein Collection 1892-1950. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702148161

Leo Stein was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in 1872, the fourth surviving child in the family of Daniel and Amelia Stein. In 1874, his sister, Gertrude, was born. Due to the changing fortunes of the family and the difference in ages between siblings, Leo and Gertrude came, in a sense, to raise each other, their own fates linked for several decades. [A timeline provided in the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers pinpoints significant events in their lives.] In brief, Leo attended Harvard for several years, took a trip around the world with his cousin Fred Stein in 1895, and matriculated to Johns Hopkins along with Gertrude, where he was awarded a bachelor of arts degree in 1898. The two established housekeeping in Paris in 1903 at 27 Rue de Fleurus, by which time Leo had happened upon a vocation. He began to paint and continued until his death producing landscapes and nudes. These early years in Paris were spent acquiring paintings, as well. Gertrude and Leo collected works by the then little-known artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cezanne.

The first ten years in Paris were busy and fruitful, with Leo pursuing his art and Gertrude her writing. They both fell in love. Leo with Nina Auzias, an artist's model, and Gertrude with Alice B. Toklas, a fellow expatriate from California. These changes in their lives, however, were what helped to precipitate their eventual break. Perhaps due to Leo's jealousy over Alice, perhaps due to Gertrude's frustration at Leo's dismissal of her work, in 1913, when the two were on either side of 40, they parted for good. Leo took Nina to live with him in Settignano, Italy, and Gertrude remained in Paris on the Rue de Fleurus with Alice. Leo wrote occasionally to Gertrude, usually to clarify matters of their estates, but the acrimonious rift would never be healed.

Leo spent several years in North America during World War I, separated from Nina. He continued to paint, and to write critically about art, but his principal interest in these later years was psychoanalysis. He would spend significant amounts of time, money, and energy during the subsequent decades undergoing intense Freudian therapy to undo the burdensome neuroses he described so often in letters to friends. He finally married Nina in 1921, and sold the bulk of his art collection to the American collector Albert Barnes in the 1920s. In 1927, he published a collection of his critical writings on art as The A-B-C of Aesthetics . He continued writing over the next two decades, proposing to collect more of his essays which brought together his ruminations on aesthetics, metaphysics, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. In 1947, he brought out this compilation as Appreciation: Painting, Poetry and Prose . He had just begun to receive laudatory critical reviews of the book when he was informed that his ongoing stomach problems were caused by cancer. He died on July 29, 1947, barely one year later than his sister Gertrude had died, and of the same ailment that had killed her. He was survived only by his wife Nina, who lived on in Settignano for two years until committing suicide in 1949.

Leo's cousin Fred Stein, along with several friends, gathered together a selection of Leo Stein's letters and writings as a tribute to him. They were published in 1950 as Journey Into the Self .

From the guide to the Leo Stein Collection, 1892-1950, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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  • American history/20th century
  • Authors, American--20th century--Archives
  • Modernism (Art)
  • Art, Modern--20th century
  • Americans--France--History--20th century


  • Authors
  • Artists


  • France (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Paris (France) (as recorded)
  • Paris (France) (as recorded)
  • Paris (France) (as recorded)