Picasso, Stein, Dutch Masters Star in Four San Francisco Shows

"Sleeping Dog" (1650) by Gerrit Dou. The painting is on view in "Dutch and Flemish Masterworks From the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection," through Oct. 2 at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. Source: Legion of Honor via Bloomberg

A little white dog with black ears is curled up asleep next to a large clay jar and a bundle of kindling. His carefully rendered fur seems to glow against the muted colors of the background.

Gerrit Dou’s “Sleeping Dog” of 1650 is a tiny painting -- 6.5 by 8.5 inches -- yet it’s also one of the most memorable in a superb exhibition of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art now on view in San Francisco. Featuring the collection of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, it’s the latest of four major shows to open in the city this summer.

The works, which show ordinary life closely observed and often bathed in extraordinary light, features all the key genres and almost all the big names.

There’s a fine Rembrandt portrait of an old woman in a black dress with white collar, a moving Hals portrait of a preacher, a colorful village scene by Brueghel, flower bouquets by Bosschaert and de Heem, a luminous Amsterdam cityscape by van der Heyden and an amusing ice-skating scene by Avercamp. All that’s missing is a Vermeer.

“Dutch and Flemish Masterworks From the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection” was organized by the Peabody Essex Museum and runs through Oct. 2 at the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park. Information: +1-415-750-3600; http://www.famsf.org/legion.

‘The Steins Collect’

The curatorial triumph of the summer is “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Writer and Bay Area native Gertrude Stein and her brothers, Leo and Michael, had remarkable taste and timing. They moved to Paris in the early 1900s and soon began collecting the newest wave of modern art, Matisse and Picasso, as well as the more established Cezanne, Renoir, Bonnard and others.

Their apartments became de facto museums of modernism and salons for the artistic elite of Paris. Gertrude was Picasso’s champion. Leo, Michael and his wife, Sarah, favored Matisse. (And others: Michael and Sarah later commissioned Le Corbusier to design a modernist house for them.)

The sprawling show brings together much of the now scattered Stein collection. It features iconic works like Picasso’s monumental 1905-06 portrait of Gertrude, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and Matisse’s 1905 “Woman With a Hat,” now part of the San Francisco museum’s collection.

Along with about 40 Picassos, 60 Matisses and works by more than a dozen other artists, the exhibition offers scores of photographs of the Steins, Gertrude’s partner Alice B. Toklas, their apartments and their arty circle, encapsulating a remarkable period.

Writer, Lecturer, Celebrity

An excellent companion show at the nearby Contemporary Jewish Museum, “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” focuses on Gertrude’s life as a writer, lecturer and celebrity, displaying manuscripts, documents, photographs and a number of original works depicting Gertrude and Alice.

“The Steins Collect” runs through Sept. 6 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St. Information: +1-415-357-4000; http://www.sfmoma.org. The show opens at the Grand Palais in Paris on Oct. 3 and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York on Feb. 21.

“Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” runs through Sept. 6 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. Information: +1-415-655-7800; http://www.thecjm.org. It opens Oct. 14 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

Picassos From Paris

At the de Young museum, “Picasso: Masterpieces From the Musee National Picasso, Paris” surveys the artist’s prolific career.

In an elegant, almost minimalist installation, the show lets the 150 works speak for themselves. While Picasso made his name with Cubism, some of the most extraordinary pieces in the exhibition are his realist paintings from the post-World War I period -- monumental images like “Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race)” of 1922 or sensuous ones such as “Still Life With Pitcher and Apples” of 1919. Like Dou’s “Sleeping Dog,” these are physically small pictures, yet they take your breath away.

“Picasso” runs through Oct. 10 at the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park. Information: +1-415-750-3600; http://www.famsf.org. The show opens Nov. 12 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.

(Stephen West is an editor for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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