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Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore

May 6, 2011 - September 25, 2011

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"...A fascinating look at the Cones' evolving
relationships with Picasso and Matisse..."

The New York Times

Henri Matisse fondly called Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone “my two Baltimore ladies.” The two Cone sisters began buying art directly out of the Parisian studios of avant-garde artists in 1905. Although the sisters' taste for modern art was little understood—critics disparaged Matisse at the time and Pablo Picasso was virtually unknown—the Cones followed their passions and amassed one of the world’s greatest art collections including artworks by Matisse, Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and other modern masters.

The Cone Sisters Bought Paintings by Matisse, Picasso and Others

As daughters of prosperous German-Jewish immigrants, the Cone sisters were well-educated and widely traveled. In Paris, Claribel and Etta spent time with the doyenne of the Parisian avant-garde, Gertrude Stein, and her brother Leo, who influenced their collecting. The Steins introduced them to Picasso and Matisse and the sisters became friends and patrons of both artists. In travels across Europe and expeditions to Africa and Asia, they also acquired textiles and decorative arts.

Living with Art

The Cone sisters amassed an exceptional collection of approximately 3,000 objects, which were displayed in their Baltimore apartments. Their nephew Edward T. Cone described the ambience in their adjoining residences in Baltimore’s Marlborough Apartments as

“really a collection of collections, and in the Marlborough one could see them all—if one had weeks to spend. There were pictures, to be sure: oils, water colors, drawings, prints. There were sculptures: marble, bronze, wood. There were rugs and furniture. There were laces, shawls, textiles and fabrics of all kinds. There were antique jewelry and objets d’art. And all these were used, they were enjoyed, they were lived with.”

Claribel and Etta Cone bequeathed their extensive collection of art and objects to The Baltimore Museum of Art upon Etta’s death in 1949.

The Exhibition

Victorian sisters.
Their radical collection.
In New York at last.
Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore features over 50 of these works of art—including paintings, sculptures and works on paper by Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Renoir, van Gogh, Pissarro, Courbet and more—on loan from The Baltimore Museum of Art. In addition to modern masterpieces, the exhibition includes textiles and decorative arts from Europe, Asia and Africa that the Cones collected, as well as photographs and archival materials to highlight the remarkable lives of these Jewish sisters. Also featured in the museum galleries will be an interactive virtual tour of their adjoining Baltimore apartments, showing their remarkable collection as it was displayed in their home.


Karen Levitov
Associate Curator


The Cone Sisters and Gertrude Stein in ItalyEtta Cone's Front RoomMatisse: Etta Cone

Related Links

View: Photos from the Cone Sisters Photo Wall on Flickr

Listen: Curator Karen Levitov on The Leonard Lopate Show, www.wnyc.org (8/23/2011)

Listen: A Tale of Two Sisters and Their Serious Eye for Art, Weekend Edition Sunday, www.npr.org (6:10, 6/25/2011)

Henri Matisse, French, 1869 1954
Seated Odalisque, Left Knee Bent, Ornamental Background and Checkerboard, 1928
Oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 14 7/8 in. (54.9 x 37.8 cm)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.255
© 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Paul Gauguin, French, 1848 1903
Vahine no te vi (Woman of the Mango), 1892
Oil on canvas
28 5/8 x 17 ½ in. (72.7 x 44.5 cm.)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.213

Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881 1973
Woman with Bangs, c. 1902
Oil on canvas
24 1/8 x 20 ¼ in. (61.3 x 51.4 cm.)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.268
© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Claribel Cone, Gertrude Stein, and Etta Cone in Settignano, Italy, June 26, 1903
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone Papers, Archives and Manuscripts Collection, CG.12

Front room, Etta Cone’s apartment (8D), Marlborough Apartments, Baltimore, 1941. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone Papers, Archives and Manuscripts Collection, CH.23.
All works by Henri Matisse seen in archival photograph © 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954)
Etta Cone (VI/VI), 1931-1934
Charcoal with stumping
28 x 16 1/8 in. (71.1 x 41 cm)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.12.70
© 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore is organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Jewish Museum, New York, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The exhibition is sponsored by Deutsche Bank

Major support is provided by the Emanuel and Riane Gruss Charitable Foundation; The David Berg Foundation; and the Leon Levy Foundation.

We gratefully acknowledge the following for their generosity: an anonymous donor in memory of Curtis Hereld; DLA Piper; EisnerAmper LLP; The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation; Rothschild Inc.; The Skirball Foundation; The Edward T. Cone Foundation; Shari and Jeff Aronson; W.P. Carey; The Charlesmead Foundation; Frank Crystal & Company; The Gottesman Fund; Guardsmark LLC; Traci and Mark Lerner; The Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds; Offit Capital Advisors LLC; and other donors.

The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Exhibition Fund and the Alfred J. Grunebaum Memorial Fund also provided important support.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.


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