It is with great sadness that the public institution of the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie has learnt of the passing of the great American collector, and indeed friend and patron of France, Spencer Hays.
Born in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Spencer Hays grew up in a modest family and spent over 40 years amassing an extraordinary art collection comprising some 600 pieces, together with his wife Marlene.
Vuillard specialist Guy Cogeval met Marlene and Spencer Hays in 2001, and this deep friendship initially led to the couple loaning 187 works to the Musée d'Orsay for the A French Passion exhibition. These works were eventually donated to the Musée d'Orsay subject to usufruct in October 2016.
Spencer Hays was a big lover of French culture, to the point that he even had a replica of Paris’s Hôtel de Noirmoutier built for him to live in in Nashville. He spent hours on end at the museum every time he visited Paris and established friendships with the staff.
Spencer Hays was also an exuberant philanthropist who had recently been appointed Chairman of the American Friends of the Musée d'Orsay. His love of art, his elegance, his generosity and his modesty made him a truly extraordinary character.
Guy Cogeval, President of the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, Laurence des Cars, Director of the Musée de l'Orangerie, and all of the staff at both museums would like to extend their greatest sympathies to his wife Marlene and their children and grandchildren.