The Claribel and Etta Cone Collection

Claribel and Etta Cone were two of the thirteen children of Herman and Helen Cone, Jewish immigrants who found success in America in the grocery and textile industries. They were raised in Baltimore, where Claribel (1864-1929) earned a medical degree (an "unladylike" ambition in those days) from Woman's Medical College. Etta (1870-1949) was a dedicated pianist who also managed the Cone household. In 1898, it was Etta’s task to decorate the Cone family's Victorian-style parlor and she bought five paintings by American Impressionist Theodore Robinson. These were the first acquisition in what would become a lifetime of collecting.

In Paris, the Cone sisters met Pablo Picasso in 1905 and Henri Matisse in 1906. They began to collect their work when modern art was still not widely known, let alone appreciated. Their adventurous spirit in collecting over the next forty years resulted in the formation of one of the most important collections of modern art in America. Eventually, the sisters gave about 3,000 works of art to the Baltimore Art Museum, where they may be seen today.

There is, of course, a second Cone collection, one less well known internationally but certainly treasured here in North Carolina: the Claribel and Etta Cone Collection at the Weatherspoon Art Museum. How did a part of their collection come here, to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro? As mentioned, the Cone family was successful in the textile business, and many of their mills were located in the South. Moses Cone, brother of Claribel and Etta, built a vacation home in North Carolina at Blowing Rock. Etta was a frequent visitor there, as were other members of the Cone family. One such member was Etta's sister-in-law, Laura Weill (Mrs. Julius) Cone. Laura Cone was a loyal alumna of UNCG. She knew that the Weatherspoon Art Gallery had been established on campus in 1942, and knew, too, that the young organization was struggling to get established. Laura Cone asked her sister-in-law, Etta, if she would consider making a donation of art to the Weatherspoon. In her will dated May 18, 1949, Etta left to the Woman’s College (as it was known then) an astonishing collection of sixty-seven Matisse prints and six Matisse bronzes as well as a large number of modern prints and drawings, including works by Pablo Picasso, Felix Valloton, Raoul Dufy and John Graham.


Please note: Not all works of art or collections are on view at all times, particularly works from the Claribel and Etta Cone Collection and Lenoir C. Wright Collection. As we continue to digitize the nearly 6,000 objects in our collection, guests may view them online through our collection search.

Collection Highlights

Photo of Edgar Allan Poe

Félix Vallotton (1865-1925)

Edgar Allan Poe - 1894

Photo of Madeleine I

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954)

Madeleine I - 1901

Photo of Woman with Apples

John Graham (1859-1937)

Untitled (Woman with Apples) - c. 1920

Photo of The Coiffure

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

The Coiffure - 1923

Photo of The Large Bather

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)

La Grand Baigneuse (The Large Bather) - 1927