Art and history intertwine in the story of Claribel and Etta Cone, two sisters from Baltimore whose intellectual openness and love of art–not to mention tidy personal fortunes–brought them into contact with many pioneering minds of the early 20th century. More than mere art patrons, the sisters forged decades-long friendships with Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo, Pablo Picasso, and especially Henri Matisse.
The collection of art that they amassed, which includes many masterpieces of Postimpressionism as well as works from Asia and Africa (now at the Baltimore Museum of Art), liberally illustrates the gracefully designed pages of this book. So too do the author’s colorful Matisse-inspired illustrations, most of which are based on archival photographs. The book is a pleasure not only to behold but to hold, too - prestige paper and meticulous attention to color honor the author, her subjects, and the art.
Painting by Susan Fillion based on a famous photo from 1903.
An art educator in Baltimore, Susan Fillion has obviously spent untold hours with the Cone Collection and with the voluminous correspondence and other papers of the sisters. She frequently describes a scene or situation from Claribel’s or Etta’s perspective, an effective and engaging device. In the hands of a writer less intimate with the sisters, this might feel false or presumptive, but Fillion keeps it simple and convincing. A beautiful and accessible gateway to a study of Postimpressionism, and a moving portrait of two extraordinary women.
Adapted from a review that originally appeared in School Library Journal.
Today's Nonfiction Monday Round-up is at Emu's Debuts.