Gertrude Stein concerned herself with problems of identity, knowledge, consciousness, and language. In a period of modernist experiment, she became famous as a radically innovative avant-gardist. Her experimental imagination played around and with the generic requirements of many forms—short stories, detective stories, novellas, literary portraits, poems, autobiographies, critical essays, operas, plays, and war reminiscences. This often non-referential work is opaque and resistant to interpretation. An expatriate for virtually all of her writing career and of the first half of the twentieth century, living largely in Paris (though in French villages during the Second World War), she marked her writing as deeply American. In the years between the wars she hosted her legendary salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, where, after 1910, she lived with her life partner, Alice B. Toklas. With her brother Leo, Stein was an early collector and promoter of modern, especially cubist, painting.
She spoke and wrote mainly in English, "living continuously with the rhythms of the English language." Her literary models were Henry James and Gustave Flaubert.