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Cover for The Cone Sisters of Baltimore

The Cone Sisters of Baltimore

Collecting at Full Tilt

Ellen B. Hirschland, Nancy Hirschland Ramage


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Over a period of fifty years, sisters Claribel and Etta Cone amassed one of the most acclaimed collections of late-nineteenth and twentieth-century art in America. Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta were two halves of an idiosyncratic team—Claribel bold and assertive and Etta reflective and sensitive—who used the fortunes of their German Jewish immigrant family to seek out works that inspired and pleased them, regardless of public opinion and with only self-taught expertise.

This richly illustrated biography documents their lives from a unique perspective: that of their great-niece, who wrote this book with her daughter. Ellen B. Hirschland and Nancy Hirschland Ramage delve into Claribel’s and Etta’s world, following the sisters through letters and personal stories as they travel to meet some of the artists whose works would turn their adjoining apartments into a gallery. They bought art by Manet, Gauguin, and Cézanne, as well as of Picasso and Matisse, whom they came to know well. The sisters’ experiences in Paris from 1901 through the 1920s provide an exceptional view of the bright artistic ferment in the city at that time. They were two Victorian women from Baltimore buying avant-garde masterpieces, attending salons with friends Gertrude and Leo Stein, and building a collection that would initially enrage the conservative people around them. Only with time would their keen eyes and unwavering taste prove them right.

Praise For The Cone Sisters of Baltimore: Collecting at Full Tilt

"The Cone Sisters of Baltimore is told with great flair and panache. Ellen Hirschland and Nancy Hirschland Ramage have a superb eye for detail, a taut and witty style, and a wonderful ability to turn a memorable phrase."--Christopher Lane, Northwestern University.

"...a window into the heady early days of modern art."--Bloomsbury Review

Northwestern University Press, 9780810124813, 352pp.

Publication Date: July 3, 2008

About the Author

Ellen B. Hirschland (1919–99) was an art history teacher, a collector of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, and a frequent lecturer on the Cone sisters and on modern art. As the great-niece of the sisters, in 1936 she traveled with Etta Cone to Paris, where she met artists, dealers, and collectors and struck up a friendship with Henri Matisse.

Nancy Hirschland Ramage is the Charles A. Dana Professor of the Humanities and Arts emerita at Ithaca College. She too is an art historian, and has written and lectured widely in her fields of Greek and Roman art and eighteenth-century neoclassicism.