Modern Visions, Modern Art: The Cone Sisters in North Carolina

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Contributing Authors: Nancy Hirschland Ramage, Neva J. Specht, and Jordan Calaway, with an essay by Edward T. Cone reprinted from The American Scholar. Editor: Carrie Streeter

Published in conjunction with the exhibition Modern Visions, Modern Art: The Cone Sisters in North Carolina, organized by the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, August 3 - November 30, 2019. Exhibition Curators: Dianna Cameron and Carrie Streeter.

The Cone sisters’ collection is beloved worldwide for both its content and the character of its collectors. Claribel and Etta were daughters of German Jewish immigrants, two siblings in a family of thirteen, and women who embraced many new opportunities of their era. As their brothers grew the family’s business in textiles, and thereby the family’s fortune, the sisters received financial support to pursue their interests. By 1900, at age 36, Claribel was a research pathologist and president of the Woman's Medical College in Baltimore. Etta, at age 30, had recently altered the aesthetics of their parents' home with the purchase of five impressionist paintings. Their personalities were distinct, but their shared love for travel, education, art, and the avant-garde led them to create a significant collection of modern art, including over 500 works by Henri Matisse.

Modern Visions, Modern Art: The Cone Sisters in North Carolina presents a compelling selection of works on paper, paintings, and sculptures by artists in the collection who drew the admiration and attention of Claribel and Etta Cone: Henri Matisse, Sarah Stein, Jacques Villon, Marie Laurencin, Ben Silbert, John Graham, Everett Bryant, Rembrandt van Rijn, Gertraud Brausewetter, Ilse Breit, and Bernice Oehler. These works portray bodies in motion, women engaged in acts of self-expression, moments of daily life, and pastoral views of both real and imagined landscapes.

The Cone sisters collected paintings, sculptures, and prints, as well as textiles, jewelry, and trinkets for personal enjoyment, but they also believed that art encouraged vital conversations in an increasingly complex world. To ensure that such conversations were ongoing, the sisters bequeathed their collection to two museums: the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland and the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC. For those who are familiar with the Cone sisters, as well as those who have never heard of them, this exhibition offers a chance to learn new stories about these fascinating women, their family, and their famous art collection.

Hardcover, 150 pages.

9.62 x 0.87 x 11.25 inches