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Henri Matisse, “Seated Odalisque, Left Knee Bent, Ornamental Background and Checkerboard" (1928), the Baltimore Museum of Art: the Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.255 (© Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

A Modern Influence: Henri Matisse, Etta Cone, and Baltimore is the first comprehensive exhibition to explore the singular 43-year friendship between Baltimore collector Etta Cone (1870–1949) and French modern master Henri Matisse (1869–1954). Their relationship laid the foundation for the BMA’s Matisse collection of more than 1,200 paintings and works on paper — the largest public collection of the artist’s work in the world.

Etta Cone first visited Matisse’s Paris studio in January 1906. She immediately felt a kinship with Matisse, purchased two drawings during the visit, and returned several weeks later to purchase another drawing and watercolor. Cone’s older sister, Claribel (1864–1929) also came to know Matisse; together, the two sisters collected approximately 700 works, including paintings such as “Blue Nude” (1907), “The Yellow Dress” (1929–31), and “Large Reclining Nude” (1935).

Following Claribel’s death, Matisse traveled to Baltimore in 1930, and, for the first time, saw the impressive holdings that the Cone sisters had already acquired. It is likely that during this visit Etta also mentioned her interest in supporting the BMA. From this point, Matisse began to create and offer Etta works with her collection and the museum in mind.

The exhibition precedes the December 2021 opening of the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies at the BMA, which will allow for greater public and scholarly engagement with the museum’s Matisse collection.

For information on tickets and tours, visit artbma.org.

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