1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.
Thursday - Tuesday through September 25, $12 (free Saturdays 11:00 am - 5:45 pm)
Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone were highly unusual, both as women and as art collectors. Born in the Victorian era and active in early-twentieth-century European society, they were never concerned with what was popular or a good investment. Instead, the two Baltimore sisters bought art that they wanted to live with — and that created quite a stir, because others in the art world did not understand their eclectic, avant-garde, far-ranging tastes. Through September 25, the Jewish Museum is displaying the charming exhibit “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore,” featuring fifty paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, Theodore Robinson, and, primarily, Henri Matisse, among others, as well as jewelry, embroidery, textiles, and other objects from Asia and Africa that the sisters collected. An extensive collection of letters, diaries, postcards, photographs, and other archival documents grounds the exhibit and lends insight into the sisters’ fascinating lives; they counted among their friends Matisse (who would send them photos of works in progress to titillate them), Leo and Gertrude Stein, and other seminal figures of the time. The exhibit includes an enlightening BBC film about the sisters, narrated by Michael Palin, as well as a photo series of their Marlborough Apartments that depicts how they lived with their art. The daughters of German-Jewish immigrants who amassed a fortune in the textile industry, Claribel (1864-1929) became a medical doctor, while Etta (1870-1949) served as the large family’s caretaker. Models of Victorian refinement, neither of the sisters married. After Claribel died suddenly, Etta continued to maintain her apartment as if she were still alive. Upon Etta’s death, the entire collection was bequeathed to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Walking through this engaging exhibit is like taking a stroll through the lives of these wholly original women.