The Cone sisters looked like two proper Victorian ladies, but they were clearly ahead of their time. Their taste in avant-garde art amazed their contemporaries. Art critics disparaged Matisse at the time, and Pablo Picasso was virtually unknown. Undaunted, the Cones followed their passions.

Have you made a discovery that’s too futuristic for most of us to understand? A new sport, work of art, fashion statement, piece of music -- tell us what might “catch on” someday.

The Cone sisters had an important connection to North Carolina textiles, but also loved surrounding themselves with lush fabrics and textures. Their couches overflowed with pillows covered in multicolored fabrics; they collected textiles and laces from around the world. Many of their beloved Matisse paintings also feature bright colors and bold patterns.

Fabric Design Contest
The Nasher Museum partnered with Spoonflower, a Durham-based company, to hold a contest with the goal of designing a textile that would look at home in a Matisse painting. The top 10 designs were announced November 29, 2012. Congrats! The top ten designs will be featured at a First Thursday and Art for All events at the Nasher Museum on Thursday, December 6, 2012.

You don’t need vast wealth to become an art collector. Etta Cone bought a Picasso etching for 120 francs in 1905 (about $550 in today’s dollars). World-renowned collector Jason Rubell, whose exhibition Time Capsule is also currently on view at the Nasher Museum,  started his collection as a teen-ager with money he earned stringing tennis racquets.

Have you ever bought a work of art? Join the conversation on Facebook.

Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters includes several photographs that depict the Cone sisters’ lives between 1903 and the 1940s. We would like a glimpse of your family’s life during those years.

Share your family photographs from between 1903 and 1949. Email photographs to We will display a number of these online. By submitting a photo you agree to allow the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to use this image on the museum's website and in the galleries.

Etta and Claribel dressed like conservative Victorian ladies long after long-sleeved, high-necked white blouses and floor-length black skirts went out of style. Imagine the Cone sisters in front row seats during Fashion Week in Paris!

Coming Soon! Download and cut out our Cone sisters paper dolls and create your own fashions for these forward-thinking sisters. Scan and submit your designs here for an online fashion show.

The Cone sisters’ passion for collecting modern art began in 1898, when Etta Cone received $300 to spruce up the family home. Rather than buy new curtains or sofa pillows, Etta picked up five paintings by the American Impressionist Theodore Robinson in New York.

If you had Etta’s budget of $7,756 (adjusted for inflation) to fix up your home, would you buy art? Why or why not? What would you buy? Let us know your thoughts.