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  • Saidie May: Pioneer of Early 20th Century Collecting, by Susan Helen Adler
Saidie May: Pioneer of Early 20th Century Collecting, by Susan Helen Adler
Written by
Barbara Morrison
October 2011
Written by
Barbara Morrison
October 2011
Saidie May and her sister, Blanche Adler, collected art not for their own use but to donate to museums for the benefit of the public. Cousins of the Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta, who bequeathed their amazing collection of Impressionist art to the Baltimore Museum of Art, Saidie and Blanche traveled to France frequently and befriended the struggling artists they met there. Knowing that the Cones planned to leave their collection to the BMA, the sisters concentrated on collecting more modern art that would complement and carry forward the Cone collection. In addition to the many works of art they donated, they gave generously to the BMA throughout their lifetime, Blanche volunteering with the curatorial department before serving as Vice-President of the Board of Trustees and Saidie funding an entire wing to be used for introducing children to art.

Saidie and Blanche grew up in a wealthy Jewish family in Baltimore. Their father, Charles Adler had emigrated from Germany in 1856 and, with Henry Frank, built a shoe manufacturing business that enabled the family to live in a fine house in Bolton Hill and send the three youngest children, including Blanche and Saidie, to private school. They traveled back to Germany often, taking the children. Saidie's early adult life was one of marriage and domesticity but, prefiguring the changes to women's roles in the 20th century, after an amicable divorce she chose a life of art and independence. She, herself, was an artist, challenging herself to learn new techniques and try new forms right up until her death, though she recognised that her talent was not in the same league as the artists whose work she collected.

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