What people are saying about
Mary Gabriel's "The Art of Acquiring:
A Portrait of Etta & Claribel Cone
"Mary Gabriel's tale of two sisters is a true romance.
It is stranger than fiction, smoothly constructed, racily
written, and especially touching in its portrait of the shy
and retiring younger sister. The remarkable Etta Cone, who
emerged late in life from the shadow of her majestic sibling
Claribel, became one of this century's most unlikely pioneers,
a figure of power and daring in her own right as well as a
collector who came to mean more than any other to Henri Matisse.
Both sisters, I hope, will now take their rightful place among
the great visionary collectors of the twentieth century."
-- HILLARY SPURLING, AUTHOR OF THE
ACCLAIMED BIOGRAPHY "THE UNKNOWN MATISSE" (KNOPF,
1998) AND "LA GRANDE THERESE"
A highly readable combination of insights on collecting,
and fresh, well-rounded portraits of two remarkable collectors,
whom she brings unforgettably to life… A tremendous
help to us in preparing the Cone Sisters film.
-- MICHAEL PALIN, HOST/PRODUCER, BBC
DOCUMENTARY, MICHAEL PALIN ON THE CONE SISTERS
A captivating biography that covers Gertrude Stein's influence
on the obscure sisters Etta and Claribel Cone, [their] tireless
European travels to artists' studios and galleries, and, most
notably, the interdependence of collectors and artists. Reuters
reporter Gabriel (Notorious Victoria, LJ 11/15/97) has given
life to the Cone sisters … Highly recommended.
-- LIBRARY JOURNAL
" Gabriel focuses on the 'barely recognizable link'
between modern masters such as Cezanne, Degas, Picasso, and
Matisse, and the largely forgotten art collectors Etta and
Claribel Cone, wealthy--and stolidly Victorian--Baltimore
sisters who...devoted their lives to amassing one of the largest
and most remarkable collections of modern art in the world.
Gabriel ably demonstrates that conventional wisdom has robbed
the Cone sisters of credit for their own lively and often
iconoclastic aesthetic sensibilities. By inviting us to view
early 20th-century painting through the Cones' eyes and by
adeptly weaving the threads of their life stories into the
larger fabric of the social and artistic history of their
time, Gabriel complicates our understanding of the inner lives
of these outwardly conventional women and of the relationship
between art and its audience."
-- PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY
The story of the Cone sisters is, in its way, quite important.
Before the National Endowment for the Arts, people like Claribel
and Etta Cone collected great art, providing both cash and
cachet to artists who desperately needed them. Their story
also proves that it doesn't take an avant-garde personality
to appreciate the avant-garde… to identify and support
the first-rate art of their own time.
-- THE WEEKLY STANDARD (lead review)
The Art of Acquiring is absolutely engaging. Gabriel's portrait
of Claribel and Etta Cone not only illuminates the sisters'
passion for collecting art, but it restores the truth about
the powerful impact these women had in introducing modern
art to the United States. The Cone sisters were as daring
in life as they were in collecting art.
-- KANDACE STEADMAN, ASSISTANT CURATOR OF EDUCATION,
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS
A most intriguing tale of the Cone sisters and their times.
Mary Gabriel has painted a lively portrait, a colorful creation
laced with dabs of everything from the lesbian liaison between
Etta Cone and Gertrude Stein to a gripping description of
the young, poor Picasso creating in a filthy underground hovel.
-- BENNARD B. PERLMAN, ARTIST AND AUTHOR
OF THE LIVES, LOVES, AND ART OF ARTHUR B. DAVIES (1998)
"In this century, galleries and museums have seen a
marked rise in the appreciation of their role, as art lovers
better recognize curators' skill in finding vibrant works,
but there is still one neglected component in an artwork's
journey from vision to opening night: the collector.
Although a few collectors are remembered, most are largely
forgotten in writings on art history, with space given to
more luminous dealers or critics instead. Gabriel, a journalist
who writes on arts topics, rights this injustice in a minor
but crucial way by resurrecting the memory of Etta and Claribel
Cone, two independently wealthy Jewish sisters from Baltimore
who acquired one of the most important collections of modern
French painting in the world."With sparkling prose, Gabriel
traces the lives of the Victorian pair, from their privileged
upbringing to the rise of their passion in collecting Picasso,
Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, and Gaughin.
Most striking is Etta's contribution to the life of Matisse,
whose work she collected before anyone else even took him
seriously, adorning her apartment's walls with his (at the
time) scandalous nudes. Although neither sister married, and
were considered by many of their circle to be rather uptight
spinsters in dress and behavior, they collected with daring,
indifferent to the shock of their contemporaries over the
sensuality in the works they admired. When they died, the
entire collection was given to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
More than just a catalog of the sisters' collection, the
book is also a lively and fascinating look into the lives
of Victorian women and the constraints they had to overcome
to achieve their desires. For anyone with an interest in art
history, or just good storytelling, Gabriel's biography proves
an excellent acquisition."
-- FOREWORD MAGAZINE, THE MAGAZINE OF INDEPENDENT
"Art of Acquiring is excellent. Not only is it well-written,
and vividly captures the life of the Cone sisters, but is
quite moving in places. I especially appreciated the way it
interweaves the social and historical backdrop with the personal
to clearly present the remarkable contribution of two sisters
practically lost to, or obscured in, history. They may well
have been the greatest and most important art collectors of
the 20th century."
DIRECTOR OF THE BBC DOCUMENTARY, MICHAEL PALIN ON THE
The Cone sisters: visionary art patrons, or suggestible
ninnies? History has long held the latter view of Etta and
Claribel Cone, whose large modern-art collection is the pride
of the Baltimore Museum of Art. According to tradition, the
regal, eccentric Dr. Claribel Cone and her mousy sister, Etta,
had little artistic sense; they bought what their friends
Gertrude and Leo Stein told
them to buy. That, at any rate, was the tale told late in
life by the mercurial Gertrude Stein. And it stuck. But author
Mary Gabriel offers a different picture of the Cone sisters
in a new biography, The Art of Acquiring. Though they began
life as sheltered members of Baltimore's Jewish German bourgeoisie,
the sisters grew more savvy during long stays in Paris, becoming
independent -- and important-- collectors of early 20th century
European art. In fact, Etta Cone's gift to the art world was
larger then merely her bequest to the museum. She supported
the 20th century's revolutionary artists from their impoverished
beginnings -- when Henri Matisse, for example, was reviled
by critics as a ‘wild beast,' and Pablo Picasso scratched
out a living in a nauseatingly filthy hovel.
Etta continued to devotedly support Matisse's work through
the end of his life. In so doing, she helped make that body
of work possible at all.
-- BALTIMORE MAGAZINE