Published in conjunction with the exhibition The collection of Marlene and Spencer Hays. A passion for France, musée d'Orsay (16 April - 18 August 2013).
The Hays were in no way predestined to become collectors with a worldwide reputation. Both hail from humble Texan backgrounds, being educated far from museums, and their knowledge of art history is self-taught. They began buying paintings in the early 1970s to decorate their house in Nashville. Like many of their fellow Americans, they were initially interested in American art. Then their passion was stirred, a life-changer that goaded them on.
In the early 1980s, they made the acquaintance of art historians, museum curators and gallery owners, encounters which radically transformed their collecting habits. They developed a preference for the more intellectual painting of the Nabis, full of mystery and dreaminess.
To help share their passion for French art and culture, the Hays graciously opened their doors in New York and Nashville, for us to discover masterpieces by Vuillard, Bonnard, Redon, Maillol, Maurice Denis and Caillebotte, some of them on show for the first time in France.