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Tender Buttons: Gertrude Stein’s Vintage Verses About Objects, Illustrated by Lisa Congdon

A book is a book is a book. Or is it?

Given my affinity for all things Gertrude Stein and my enduring admiration for the art of my frequent collaborator and talented friend Lisa Congdon, I was instantly enamored with Tender Buttons: Objects (public library) — Stein’s 1914 collection of avant-garde verses celebrating everyday objects in her signature style of semantic somersaults, brought to fresh life with Lisa’s vibrant illustrations of birds, boxes, cups, clocks, umbrellas, and other ordinary objects made extraordinary.


A feather is trimmed, it is trimmed by the light and the bug and the post, it is trimmed by little leaning and by all sorts of mounted reserves and loud volumes. It is surely cohesive.

I asked Lisa about the project’s particular mesmerism:

Every now and again an illustration project comes your way that feels like sheer kismet. I’ve had an infatuation with the life of Gertrude Stein since I was in my early 20s, and I’ve always been intrigued by her bizarre poetry. Chronicle Books gave me an extreme amount of creative freedom to illustrate Tender Buttons — which was at the same time both glorious and extremely challenging.

Hope in gates, hope in spoons, hope in doors, hope in tables, no hope in daintiness and determination. Hope in dates.

In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling.

Tender Buttons, which comes on the heels of Lisa’s equally but very differently delightful A Collection a Day, is an absolute joy from cover to cover. Some of the artwork from it is available in Lisa’s shop.

Published March 26, 2013




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