Michele C. Cone is a critic and interdisciplinary researcher whose recent work revolves around the visual arts under Fascism; she is the author of Artists Under Vichy (Princeton, 1992) and Perspectives On Art Before, During and After Vichy (Cambridge, 2001), and well as articles in The Art Bulletin, American Historical Review, and Telos, among other publications. She is retired from teaching art and propaganda at the School of Visual Arts.
Michele C. Cone
Gertrude Stein’s collection of major artworks by the most famous modernists of her time (hence degenerate in the eyes of the Nazi occupiers), coupled with its owner being a Jew made it a leading candidate for “aryanization,” meaning theft, the destiny of art collections in all the countries where the Nazis operated during World War II, as Hector Feliciano details in The Lost Museum. Small wonder that Katherine Dudley, Stein’s neighbor and friend, would call it a miracle that Stein’s collection, left behind in Paris when its owner moved to Bilignin in the Free Zone, survived. There, Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas were not in danger of arrest thanks to their American passports—not, at least, until the Nazis had occupied the Free Zone and sacked the American Embassy in Vichy—and they were probably saved from internment after that event thanks to their friend Bernard Faÿ, one of Stein’s French translators, who headed the Bibliothèque Nationale during the Occupation years.