Cook Book: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier

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9780971324411: Cook Book: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier

This is not a cook book, but it is a Cook book, a book about a man named Cook. It is a biographical sketch of one of Gertrude Stein's dearest and most loyal friends, a largely unknown artist named William Edwards Cook (1881-1959). Born and raised in small-town Iowa, he left the U.S. in 1903 to study in France, and continued living overseas (in France, Italy, USSR and Spain) for the rest of his life. A close friend of Stein and Alice B. Toklas, it was Cook who taught Stein how to drive. They also vacationed together on the Spanish island of Majorca. In addition, when his father died in 1928, he used part of his inheritance to commission the then unknown young architect Le Corbusier to design a starkly Modernist home (called Villa Cook), the "first truly cubic house," on the outskirts of Paris. He also painted a portrait of Pope Pius X, served as an undercover agent for the U.S. Secret Service, and, as a Red Cross worker in the USSR, witnessed the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Among others who played a role in Cook's life were John Singer Sargent, Adolphe-William Bougereau, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Jeanne Maollic (whom he married), Archie and Cicely Gittes, Isadora Duncan, Robert Graves, Jacques Lipchitz, and others. Based largely on hundreds of pages of unpublished correspondence between Stein, Toklas and Cook, this is a candid and often amusing account of their warm and enduring friendship. But it is also about the mystery that Paris held for the "lost generation" of expatriate artists, writers and musicians, about Stein's and Cook's shared interest in automobiles and bullfighting, about Stein's outspoken fondness for Iowa (although she had never visited there), and about everybody's painful memories of growing up, leaving home, and never being able to return. The book is dedicated to all people who, like Stein and Cook, have had the courage to expatriate (whether literally or metaphorically), who have dared to swim against the tide of orthodoxy.

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