By Judith Levine
On a warm, sunny day earlier this month, eight MAA members and guests took a trip to the lovely city of Baltimore to visit the historic Baltimore Museum of Art.
The museum was founded in 1914 and its initial collection consisted of what is now called the Cone Collection. The Cone Collection includes the largest collection of Matisse works in the world and an enviable collection as well of masterpieces by Picasso, Cézanne, and Van Gogh.
About the Collectors
Our guide informed us that the Cone sisters were close but opposites in personality. Miss Etta was the quiet, self-educated, introvert while Dr. Claribel was very social, chose to acquire a Ph.D. and was very fashionable. One thing they shared was a love of art.
“Starting in 1901, first Miss Etta and then Dr. Claribel made long trips to Europe ... they rendezvoused [sic] with a friend from their Baltimore crowd, Gertrude Stein [and] her brother, Leo," Edward Cone wrote in Forbes Magazine in 1999.
The Steins introduced the Cone sisters to an impoverished young artist, Pablo Picasso. "He loved the Sunday comics the sisters brought him from the Baltimore newspaper, and sold them drawings for next to nothing," Edward Cone wrote.
The sisters also became long-time friends with Henri Matisse, whose works are often considered the hallmark of the Cone Collection.
Touring the Museum
When visitors enter through the lower level entrance, the first art work they see will be the Antioch Mosaics. This is a small group of large ancient Greek stone mosaics that truly impress.
Moments after seeing this you almost bump into one of the world’s most famous sculptures, Rodin’s The Thinker. The piece is huge, at about 186 cm high, (a little over 6 feet high), much larger than many would expect. It was intended to be part of a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell but the rest of the commission was never completed. In real life you experience the heaviness, the moody and brooding sensation one never gets from small copies.
We continued on, our eyes delighted by one masterpiece after another. Some of the gallery’s African sculpture collection was on view.
We were delighted to see that the small but varied collection is stunning. We only got to see the original building because the renovations to the new wing are still continuing. Like DC’s Corcoran Gallery, this too was built specifically as a gallery and famed architect John Russell Pope (1874–1937) designed its graceful and airy building.
The tiny tempting glimpses we were able to get into the new wing have convinced us that another trip will be on the schedule once that work is complete. The museum was easy to find and, at least during the week, there is ample parking and easy accessibility for those who are mobility impaired.
We loved the docent, the building, and the collection. Most definitely, the Baltimore Museum of Art should be on everyone’s have to go-see list.