Mabel and Gertrude Display the Conflicted Bridges Between Art and the Mainstream: Intimate Memories

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Dublin Core

Title

Mabel and Gertrude Display the Conflicted Bridges Between Art and the Mainstream: Intimate Memories

Subject

Art, Modernism, and Bohemia

Description

Mabel and Gertrude Display the Conflicted Bridges Between Art and the Mainstream

Mabel Dodge took on the role of a bridge not only between the various groups of reformers and artists she surrounded herself with, but also between the finances and fame of mainstream society and the artists themselves. For this reason Dodge often met conflict with the actual artists who she hang around because of Mabel’s unbridled enthusiasm sometimes commodified the artistic work of people like Gertrude Stein. Mabel was a certainly a megaphone of her age, amplifying what was new and in. Her aristocratic influence is mainly what drew attention to her. Today most of her opinion pieces and columns can only be found in Dodge’s own archives, but if Dodge wanted to speak, there was a media eager to listen. Dodge can be interpreted as a figure that represents the conflict between Bohemia and mass consumption of their ideas. The account Dodge relays about her and Gertrude Stein is only the beginning of Mabel Dodge would face as bourgeois navigating Bohemia.

Dodge explains their distancing as gradual saying, “Gertrude and me—poco-poco [little by little]—but the real break came later on when I wrote the first thing that was ever published in America about her writing” (Luhan 2269). Her use of Italian in this instance when she says “poco-poco” appears to be an attempt to take the edge off of a conflict that was likely very strained for the young Mabel Dodge—especially as she had not perceived herself to have done wrong and even upon reflection does not attest to having done wrong with Stein’s work. Being the first person to write about a writer’s work in a country like America is an extremely huge role to take on, which had the potential to shape how a whole public would receive Stein’s work.

When Dodge addresses the publication she created about Stein, she does not focus on the content of what she wrote about Stein. Instead, Dodge focuses on how large and widespread the magazine that published her writing was. Mabel writes off Stein’s concerns and even alludes to her own achievements to come later in her narrative when she describes the incident saying, “It [the piece on Stein’s work] was an article for Arts and Decorations in the number of the magazine that was sold at the Big, First, International, Independent Show that we got up in New York when I went there to live. But the tale of that comes later” (Luhan 2270). Dodge also emphasizes the words “Big” and “First” using capitalization (which was a common way to emphasize a point at the time) in order to draw attention to what she perceived to be the crowning achievement of her publication. Dodge does not recognize that Stein cares more about people understanding the ideas present in her work than her work actually being popular. Stein does not want to be the “it” and the “now”: she just wants to write honestly. Dodge’s lack of understanding of Stein’s intent as an artist separates her from Stein and somewhat isolates Dodge in the role of an active patroness attempting to understand the artists she’s enthralled by.

Dodge continues to dismiss Stein’s dissatisfaction when she remarks, “Gertrude—for some obscure reason—was angry,” which illuminates another side of Mabel Dodge (Luhan 2072). She tends to be somewhat impatient with misunderstanding. This impatience can be seen in how she does not consider that Stein’s anger could be valid and even calls it “obscure.” She goes on to describe how Stein's husband, Leo, “told me it was because it appeared to her that here was some doubt as to which was the more important, the bear or the one leading the bear,” which was Stein’s tactful way of calling Dodge out on using her to step into the spotlight for a second or two. Dodge enjoyed attention in any way she could get it, and one way just happened to be talking about her incredibly interesting friends' newest works. This trait would continue to clash with Stein’s core values, but it cannot be overlooked that despite the selfish motivation, Dodge did in fact spread word about Stein’s poetry and prose. Stein’s next book, The Making of Americans, may have benefited from Dodge’s writing. Dodge published several columns on Stein before and after the novel’s publication in the United States. Baralonini speaks to the importance of the two figures relationship and remarks how Dodge “would make both their names [Gertrude and Mabel’s] there [In New York]" (281). Rudnick agrees, commenting that “Gertrude’s admiring 'Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia' (1911) established both women’s reputations in America as leading figures of the avant-garde” (905).


Baralonini, Helen. "Mabel Dodge Luhan: in search of a personal South." Southwest Review 8.3 (1998): 280-1. Print.


Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Kindle Locations 2269-2274). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Rudnick, Lois. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds (Kindle Locations 905-906). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.



Creator

Mabel Dodge

Source

Intimate Memories

Publisher

University of New Mexico Press

Date

Publication 1999, Memoir written ca. 1910

Contributor

Lois Rudnick

Format

Written memoir

Language

English

Type

Memoir

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

“Gertrude and me—poco-poco [little by little]—but the real break came later on when I wrote the first thing that was ever published in America about her writing. It was an article for Arts and Decorations in the number of the magazine that was sold at the Big, First, International, Independent Show that we got up in New York when I went there to live. But the tale of that comes later. Gertrude—for some obscure reason—was angry. Leo told me it was because it appeared to her that here was some doubt as to which was the more important, the bear or the one leading the bear, but I felt that it was Alice’s final and successful effort in turning Gertrude from me—her influencing and her wish, and I missed my jolly fat friend very much.”
Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Kindle Locations 2269-2274). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Original Format

Written memoir