October 22, 1979 12:00 PM


Baltimore may be better known for its Orioles, crab cakes and Blaze Starr, the stripper who has reigned over the tenderloin area known as the Block. But for the last 30 years a mandatory East Coast stop for serious art pilgrims has been Baltimore’s Museum of Art, which houses not only a world-renowned Matisse collection, but a graphics department second to few. Now an even larger audience will be able to sample some of its outstanding works, thanks to New York’s Guggenheim Museum, which has organized this traveling show. Most of the treasures are a gift left to the city by two native daughters, Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone. While living in Europe before World War II, the spinster sisters began amassing modern art. (They had 43 Matisses alone and bought their first two Picassos for $23.) The Cones were close friends of fellow expatriates and ex-Baltimorians Gertrude Stein and her brother, Leo, and they often bought paintings from the famed Stein collection when brother and sister were out of pocket.

All the Matisse paintings and sculptures in this show returned to Maryland after the Guggenheim run ended earlier this month; the Baltimore museum was loathe to risk its masterpieces on a cross-country trip. (Another reason, one museum official admitted, was “They’re the main reason anyone comes here.”) Still, the other half of the show, 91 drawings and watercolors done by 77 artists spanning 165 years, is well worth seeing. Highlights include a Piet Mondrian landscape—fascinating for those who only know his famed abstract grids—and a Gustav Klimt nude done in pencil. Picasso, Miró and Robert Rauschenberg are also represented. The show opens in Des Moines November 18 and over the next year will be in Corpus Christi, Houston and Denver.

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