The Art of Acquiring A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone
By Mary Gabriel
BOOK SUMMARY: Mary Gabriel tells the story of Etta and Claribel Cone, two independently wealthy
Jewish women from Baltimore who acquired one of the most important collections of modern French painting in the world; two upright, Victorian sisters who collected Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, Gaughin; who collected even the most scandalous art of the time, from Matisse’s Blue Nude, to his Pink Nude.
Life-long fans of Matisse, the women bought him before anyone else would even take him seriously. In fact, Matisse and Etta often said to each other something to the effect of, “Remember, I made you;” the two made each other: into one the most important artists of the twentieth century, and one of the most sought-after collectors of our time.
The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone traces the Cone sisters from their early family life to their deaths, and provides information on the state of the collection today. Gabriel’s biography is a crucial contribution to both the study of art history and women’s history: she resurrects not only two powerful, influential, ahead-of-their-time women; she resurrects the study—the art—of collecting. Collecting, Gabriel points out, is not simply a hobby of the rich; it is a careful, precise craft. Although they easily could have lived luxurious, superficial lives of good food, wine, and clothing, Etta and Claribel Cone chose to contribute to the livelihood of artists in whom they believed, and to preserve—in the most perfect condition possible—the great contributions of artists of our century.