The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta & Claribel Cone

The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta & Claribel Cone

Mary Gabriel

Language: English

Pages: 282

ISBN: 1890862061

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


For four and a half decades, Etta and Claribel Cone roamed artists' studios and art galleries in Europe, building one of the largest, most important art collections in the world. At one time, these two independently wealthy Jewish women from Baltimore received offers from virtually every prominent art museum in the world, all anxious to house their hitherto private assemblage of modern art. In 1949, they awarded all their holdings to the Baltimore Museum of Art. In 2002, that collection was valued at nearly $1 billion, making them two of the most philanthropic art collectors of our age. Yet, for complex reasons, the story of the Cone sisters has never been fully or accurately told.

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smelling of it. It would be a turning point for the city. It was also a turning point for Etta. She left that spring for Europe, and saw Baltimore for the first time again three full years later. On her return, it was as if a new, more modern city had grown up where the old had previously stood. Among other things, it installed a sewer system, which it had always lacked. Etta herself was no less changed. In her pursuit of art, she left behind the safety of the museum to enter the sordid,

of Etta's first encounter with the artist who dominated her later life, it would have shown a visibly relieved face. This leader of the “wild beasts” was a charming gentleman. Henri Matisse was Etta's age, he was warm, he spoke easily, and he had an engaging manner. His studio was neat and tidy, as was his appearance. Judging from his looks, he could have been a scientist more easily than an artist. And certainly he would never be mistaken for the man who painted his wife with a green stripe

Palais, Palais Ludwig Ferdinand, and the Leuchtenberg Palais. The wide boulevard in front of the hotel had two massive fountains on either end. In between were landscaped paths frequented by the city's wealthy residents. Claribel's suite included three rooms with a private bath and balcony. Her daily routine included twenty minutes of exercise involving steps she copied from Isadora Duncan's dancing, visits with relatives and friends in Munich, and talks with other hotel guests. Among them was a

overly concerned about their friend's recent loss—except as it might derail their sales plans. Etta's records of purchases that spring and summer indicate that Michael Stein scored his “small” deal. Etta purchased fourteen Picasso drawings, most likely from Gertrude's collection, for 50,000 francs. But Etta did not buy any paintings. Perhaps they were too alive for her mood that season. She did, however, buy sculpture, including the remarkable Matisse Grand nu assis (Large Seated Nude). The

to EC, Sept. 14, 1924. 37. “I am not quite sure. . .” BMA CCol, CC to EC, Sept. 10, 1924. Lausanne, 1926-1929 1. “I'm beginning the buying. . .” BMA CCol, CC to EC, Sept. 2, 1924. 2. A Marie Laurencin oil from 1908. . . Richardson, B., Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta, 175. 3. Meanwhile, Claribel did not share. . . ibid, 110. 4. It was Cezanne's “La Montagne. . .” ibid, 109-110. 5. At one point, Claribel cabled. . . . “Bought pictures. Cable me. . .” Pollack, The Collectors, 182. 6. After

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