“The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone” is a captivating exploration of the lives and art collections of Etta and Claribel Cone, two remarkable sisters who amassed an extraordinary collection of modern art in the early 20th century. This insightful book delves into the sisters’ unique perspectives, their close relationship, and their unwavering dedication to acquiring and promoting avant-garde art.
Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the author takes us on a journey through the Cone sisters’ lives, from their upbringing in the American South to their transformative encounters with European art and culture. We discover how their passion for art led them to form deep connections with influential artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, ultimately building a world-renowned collection that challenged conventional notions of taste and beauty.
“The Art of Acquiring” offers a nuanced portrayal of the Cone sisters as trailblazers and tastemakers, shedding light on their groundbreaking contributions to the appreciation and understanding of modern art. This book is a must-read for art enthusiasts, history lovers, and anyone intrigued by the fascinating lives of these visionary women who left an indelible mark on the art world.
Thursday November 16th
2:30 – 3:30 pm
Bookclub Discussion Questions
1) Describe Claribel and Etta’s personalities. Which sister did you relate to most?
2) The bohemian atmosphere of Paris in the early 1900’s encouraged Etta to move beyond the quiet family caregiver role that she’d been raised to fulfill. Has any place or community nurtured a similar change in you?
3) Matisse and other experimental artists were dismissed as “wild beasts” by the art establishment. At one exhibition, “hushed, respectful murmurings from the outer chambers gave way to raucous sarcasm in the “Wild Beast” room. Etta and Claribel watched in horror as the normally cordial Parisian crowd turned savage, trying to scratch the offending paint off the canvases.” Why do you think the art community reacted so violently to the new art? Can you think of more recent examples of people being outraged by an artist’s work?
4) Claribel said, “Ever since I was a small girl and picked up all the shells I could find, reveling in their color and in their forms, I’ve been acquiring beautiful things. I’ve picked them up here and there all over the world…I took beauty where I found it.” What aspects of collecting do you think made the Cone happiest? Have you ever had the desire to collect anything?
5) According to the author, Gertrude Stein “dismissed the sisters as mere figures from her past, and Etta as a provincial simpleton. No matter that much of the Stein autobiography was discredited, then and later, by those living during the times and in the places she described. The book she wrote in just six weeks somehow became ‘history’, and Gertrude’s interpretation of events and personalities was incongruously accepted as historical fact.” What impression did this book give you of Gertrude Stein? Do you think historical figures are often misrepresented?