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What could be more unlikely than this tale of two unmarried sisters from a German-Jewish family in Baltimore amassing one of the major collections of modern art in America? But Etta and Claribel Cone saw the potential of young artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso when few people, or institutions, in America even knew they existed.
Etta had fallen in love with art on her first trip to Italy under the exuberant encouragement of Leo Stein, an old family friend from Baltimore. During their travels, including an arduous journey around the world in 1906, the sisters began amassing Japanese prints, antiques, textiles, and jewelry. Buying without professional advice or counsel, trusting their eyes and instincts, they soon were concentrating on the avant-garde, befriending and supporting artists, and building one of the foremost collections of Matisse's work in the world.
For decades, their treasures remained hidden in their Baltimore apartment. Claribel died in 1929, and in 1934 Etta published a catalog of the stunning collection she would ultimately bequeath to The Baltimore Museum of Art in 1949. Only then was the amazing breadth of their vision revealed.
In this touching story, fully illustrated with the work they collected -- Picasso, Matisse, Vuillard, Cezanne, and Gauguin, -- we can trace the contours of their lives, made more vivid by the informative and colorful paintings of the author, created especially for this book to display the world of the Cone sisters, active participants in the decades that changed art forever.