On September 9, 1910, Alice B. Toklas moved permanently into Gertrude Stein’s apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus in the Montparnasse district of Paris. She would be Stein’s lover, partner, household organizer, editor and muse until Stein’s death in 1946.
Together Stein and Toklas, both expatriate Americans, created a lively artistic and literary salon at rue de Fleurus entertaining Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, and many others.
They also collected art, amassing a large collection that they bought at rock bottom prices or were given by the artists they nurtured.
In 1933 Stein wrote her memoirs, but used Toklas’s voice and perspective, calling it The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. It was a surprise bestseller. Toklas herself wrote a bestselling memoir cum cookbook called The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.
One of her recipes was for hashish-laced brownies, and In the 1960s hash brownies were called Alice B. Toklas brownies, partly in her honour, partly because it made a nice pun.
After Stein died, Toklas was left almost penniless in the days when same-sex unions had no legal standing. Stein’s family raided the apartment when Toklas was away and carted off the now very valuable Picassos and Matisses. She lived off of the donations of friends and died in poverty in 1967. She is buried beside Stein at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Here, Steve Benson reflects on the impact of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s salon on a generation of writers and artists.