Eighty-five years ago this month the museum hosted two of the most remarkable women of their age. Photographer Margaret Bourke-White began her career in Cleveland with a commercial studio focused on industrial photography. By 1929 she was editor and staff photographer at Fortune magazine, a post she held until 1935. Bourke-White returned to Cleveland to lecture on “Art in Industry” on December 14, 1934. The program accompanied the exhibition Machine Arts, then on view in the galleries. Organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the exhibition focused on the beauty of machines and everyday objects. The perfection of shape and rhythm, visual complexity, and function were given place of honor in the museum. Plain Dealer art critic Grace V. Kelly mused: “kitchen gadgets, copper and chrome pans, dish washers and stoves on display must have been designed by wily males to lure women back into the kitchen. The monel metal sink alone might effect social back-tracking (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4 December 1934)”.
Later that month Gertrude Stein, famed American novelist, poet, and playwright stopped in Cleveland on her American lecture tour following the success of performances of her Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) which had been made into an opera by Virgil Thomson. The lecture was underwritten by the Print Club of Cleveland. In addition to delivering a lecture on painting, while she was in Cleveland Stein autographed copies of her books at Halle Brothers and was interviewed by the Plain Dealer. Stein spent most of her life in Paris, where she was one of the first collectors of cubist works. Her home was a salon for the leading artists and writers of the interwar years.