Exploring the Baltimore Museum of Art Cone Collection

Some historians have compared the wide terraced steps and neoclassical design of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA)

Exploring the Baltimore Museum of Art Cone Collection

Enter the wonderful world of creativity at the Baltimore Museum of Art and indulge yourself with a delightful journey of visual pleasure. A recent visit to the one-hundred year old museum revealed the results of a $28 million dollar renovation, new technology to enhance the guest experience, and extraordinary collections

Some historians have compared the wide terraced steps and neoclassical design of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) to two prominent 1870s predecessors; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Like the other great museum, there is too much to be seen and appreciated in just one visit to the BMA. To keep our visit focused we decided to focus this trip on the Cone Collection.

Our journey into history, began in the Fox Court, a large columned hall reminiscent of something you might see in ancient Greece or Rome. At the end of the hall sat a bronze casting of The Thinker, perhaps the most popular figure created by Auguste Rodin.

The Cone Wing kept us intrigued for hours as we learned of the two famous Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta. Their passion for art, travel and other interests led to the vast collection that Etta bequeathed to the museum upon her death in 1949. The donation wasn't received by the Museum until 1950, at which time their collection numbered over three thousand items.

The sisters became friends with the giants of the twentieth century art world and traveled often between their home in Baltimore and Europe. They became friends and patrons of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Their collection of Matisse works is the largest in the world. Matisse's Blue Nude is on display, one of his more famous and, at one time, controversial pieces. When it was displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913 students burned a reproduction of it in protest.

Like the Matisse collection there are a number of Picasso works that show the different styles of his work at different periods in his career. We found differences between his 1922 oil on canvas, Mother and Child, quite different in style, mood and color from c.1902 oil on canvas, Woman with Bangs, from what is called his Blue Period. Other artwork collected by the sisters, and on display reads like a who's who of art history: Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincient Van Gogh.

Most impressive was how the Cone sisters enjoyed their art. For them it wasn't just about investing, but something to be enjoyed daily. The BMA presentation of their collection recreates a portion of their apartment in Baltimore with paintings sculptures, furniture and linens.

The museum has a virtual tour of the sisters apartments which recreates how they lived with their art. A video of how the virtual design was created by Imaging Research Center UMBC is available online.

The Wurtzburger and Levi Sculpture Gardens are open year-round until dusk. Admission is free. Some special ticketed exhibitions and events may require admission fees, but they would only apply to that select exhibit, the rest of this vast collection is free to everyone.


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