Imagine going back to the early 1900’s, touring Italy with Gertrude Stein and her friends Claribel and Etta Cone. The days would be filled with poetry, art, food, wine and the sun drenched walks in the countryside. Dressed in their Victorian garments – black dresses with Belgian lace-collars that framed ornate pins, they would have been easily spotted in a crowd. Etta, the shy one of the two sisters, may have invited you to travel to Paris to attend the 1905 exhibition, the Salon d’Automne and stay with them in their rented apartments that were situated around the corner from where Gertrude and her brother, Leo, shared a living space.
The sights and sounds of Paris would have liberated your senses, especially when introduced to Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. A highlight would be the visit to Henri Matisse’s studio on the day that Gertrude bought the “Woman with a Hat,” an oil on canvas that portrays Henri’s wife, Amelie. Of course, there was talk that it was really Sarah Stein, the wife of Gertrude’s and Leo’s older brother Michael, who was the original purchaser. But that is for others to debate. You would have been more interested in examining Etta’s choice of Henri’s still life, “Yellow Pottery from Provence.” And of course, Gertrude’s portrait sitting at Picasso’s Montmartre studio would be unforgettable.
In 1905, Claribel and Etta, at 41 and 35 respectively, may have been considered spinsters in their hometown of Baltimore but they were prepared to embark on their trip around the globe. Budapest, Athens, Cairo, Shanghai – centres of commerce, art and exoticism. Together, the sisters experienced the joy of discovery as they amassed one of the finest contemporary art collections in the United States. They brought the world home.
For more information on the Cone Sisters, please go to Clanmother at Pinterest.