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Ettie Stettheimer

Florine Stettheimer
Florine Stettheimer

Carl Sprinchorn
Silhouettes of the Stettheimer sisters
1933-34
Florine and Ettie Stettheimer Papers

Artist Carl Sprinchorn, a friend of the Stettheimers and a guest at their parties, made construction paper silhouettes of the sisters, each beside a refined and fashionable male figure. Sprinchorn styled the images to appropriately represent the sisters’ individual qualities: Florine, the painter, is holding her palette; Ettie, the writer, is holding an open book; and Carrie, known for her style and sophistication, is wearing an elegant dress with a train.

 

 

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Salon hostesses Ettie, Carrie, and Florine Stettheimer—one a writer, one the designer of an extravagant, one-of-a-kind dollhouse, and one a painter—counted among their friends the most important artists and writers of the early twentieth century including Carl Van Vechten, Francis Picabia, Leo Stein, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Charles Demuth, and Marsden Hartley. The sisters were, one historian has written, “an exotic if somewhat strange trio: Ettie in red wig, brocades, and diamonds; Carrie, who dressed never in the fashions of the day but in the elegance of a past era; Florine in white satin pants.”1 Everyone agreed that there was no one else quite like them; “they were all very different,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “but they were also very much more like each other than they were like the rest of us.”2

Florine Stettheimer’s paintings were popular with artists and art critics who visited the sisters but her work was rarely exhibited outside their home. As a result, her work was ignored for most of the twentieth century. Her clever and vividly colored paintings included city scenes and many portraits of friends. “She put into visible form in her own way,” O’Keeffe wrote of her paintings, “something that they all were, a way of life that is going and cannot happen again, something that has been alive in our city.”3

Ettie Stettheimer, a novelist, published several books under the pseudonym Henrie Waste, a name derived from her own full name, Henrietta Walter Stettheimer. That her writing was overtly feminist comes as no surprise, considering that the sisters were all examples of the “new woman” of the 1910s who resisted societal pressure to marry and did as they pleased.

Among their friends, Carrie Stettheimer was celebrated as a gifted hostess who managed a spectacularly beautiful home and planned elegant and surprising meals (feather soup was a favorite dish). Carrie was also the designer of an elaborate dollhouse; she paid close attention to details such as lampshades, wallpaper, and furniture; she even included miniature playing cards.

1 Bruce Kellner, Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverent Decades, Norman: Oklahoma, 1968, p. 119.
2 Georgia O’Keeffe [Florine Stettheimer Eulogy, 1944], Unpublished Manuscript. Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe Archive.
3 Georgia O’Keeffe [Florine Stettheimer Eulogy, 1944].

 

 

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