A Texan collector donated 106 artworks to Paris’s Musée d’Orsay.
Marlene and Spencer Hays at the Musée d’Orsay in 2013. Photo by Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images.
Marlene and Spencer Hays were a Texas-based collecting couple who, in 2016, pledged that their entire collection of roughly 600 works would be bequeathed to Paris’s Musée d’Orsay after their deaths, making it the largest foreign collection donated to France since World War II. Spencer Hays passed away in 2017 and Marlene, who is now 82, has announced that she is making an immediate donation of 106 works to the Parisian museum. This suite of works being donated includes 40 paintings, 47 works on paper, and 19 sculptures. It is primarily made up of works by post-impressionist artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Camille Claudel, Henri Matisse, and Amedeo Modigliani.
The Hayses first traveled to Paris in 1971, and returned every year until Spencer’s death. In a 2016 interview with Franceinfo radio, Spencer said:
We both grew up in a small town. We didn’t have any money. Back then, the only thing I knew about Paris and France was the city called Paris, in Texas, 70 kilometers from where I lived.
In 2016, they were made commanders of the Legion d'Honneur by then-French president François Hollande for their donation. Presently, much of their collection is housed in a replica of the Hôtel de Noirmoutier, the former residence of the prefect of the Île-de-France region, that the couple built in Nashville, Tennessee.