Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Cone Sisters, Matisse and a picture book

Miss Etta and Dr. Claribe
Bringing Matisse to America
by Susan Fillion
On my recent visit to New York City, I was lucky to see a little gem of an art exhibit at the Jewish Museum - Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore. The daughters of wealthy German Jewish immigrants who settled in Baltimore, Etta and Claribel Cone traveled a great deal and became familiar guests at Gertrude Stein's Paris salon.

Beginning in 1905, they began collecting modern art, following their own instincts, disregarding what the critics said. The Steins introduced them to Matisse and Picasso, and the sisters became life-long friends and patrons of both artists.

Over the years, their collection grew to some 3,000 works of art, including painting and sculpture by Matisse, Picasso, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and others -- as well as jewelry, decorative arts and textiles from their travels in Asia and Africa.

The sisters bequeathed their collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art, which loaned more than 50 pieces to the Jewish Museum for this exquisite exhibit.

Before leaving the museum, I stopped at the gift shop, where I was delighted to find a wonderful picture book, just published this year, Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America by Susan Fillion.

An artist and museum educator, Fillion wrote a version of the Cone sisters' story for children, and illustrated it with her own paintings, many of which were based on archival photographs. The book also includes reproductions of some of the art in the collection. This is a beautiful and fascinating art history book for children. I couldn't resist adding it to my own collection of picture books.

Coming up -- Banned Book Week, and more on art and writing. Please check back!


The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

After reading this post, I feel more cultured.
Petri Dish

Lee Rae said...

There is a 2003 BBC documentary called, “Michael Palin and the Ladies Who Loved Matisse.” I have not seen this, but I am going to order it if I can through Netflix. I am amazed at this story of two sisters and the great masters they helped raise to prominence. I’ve read that the exhibit is so compelling not only because of the works of art, but the personalities and the relationships that grew over the years between the sisters and the artists. I would love to see the full collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Wow!

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Dear Petri Dish
Thank you for stopping by for a dose of culture. I try.

Lee Rae, thanks so much for the info on that documentary! I want to get it too! It would be great to see the entire collection in Baltimore. You're right about their personalities and relationships. Even the smaller exhibit I saw included letters -- especially between Matisse and the Cone sisters -- which gave a fascinating insight into their friendship. It made the exhibit much more personal.