Now comes the story of another unlikely pair of art collectors. Like Herb and Dorothy, the Cone sisters learned about art as they collected. Yet coming from a wealthy family, they didn’t bother with a budget. Still, Etta and Claribel Cone spent their money wisely. They bought what they liked, and what they liked was works by Henri Matisse, with whom they became friends.
The sisters’ taste in art was impeccable. Their collection — including 500 Matisses and 2,500 works by Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin, and others — was bequeathed to the Baltimore Museum of Art when Etta died in 1949.
This summer the legacy of the Cone sisters is being highlighted in a new book and exhibit. Susan Fillion, who teaches drawing at the Baltimore Museum of Art, has written and illustrated “Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America’’ (Godine). Growing up in Baltimore, Fillion learned of the globetrotting sisters who bonded with fellow Baltimore residents Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo over their mutual love of art.
With her book, Fillion hopes to introduce a younger generation to these sisters who, in following their bliss, amassed an important art collection. Readers will recognize many of the paintings reproduced in Fillion’s book, reproductions likely to stir an interest in seeing the originals. That can be done at “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore’’ at the Jewish Museum in New York City through Sept. 25.