About twice a month, Mary Margaret Anderson pays a visit to the museum on the Stanford campus that bears her last name. Moo, as she is better known, usually chats with the staff before declaring, “I’m off to see my friends.”
Those friends are the more than 100 works of art, including paintings and sculptures, that she and her husband, Harry (“Hunk”), along with their daughter, Mary Patricia (“Putter”) Anderson Pence, gave to the university several years ago. In September, the Anderson Collection opened its doors, allowing the public to view and appreciate the postwar American art that the family has been acquiring since the 1960s.
In 1964, after a seminal visit to the Louvre, Moo and Hunk — who started a successful dining-services business — caught the art bug.
“The Andersons didn’t study art history, and they’re not classically trained as art historians or experts in the arts,” says Jason Linetzky, the Anderson Collection’s founding director. He began working with the family around 2001, providing exhibition assistance as well as installation and curatorial support.
“They just started looking and collecting, without much direction, until they met two people on (the Stanford) campus: Al Elsen and Nathan Oliveira.”
According to Linetzky, Elsen, who was a professor of art history, encouraged the Andersons to look at master works, to go to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and see examples by the likes of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Oliveira, a painter and Stanford instructor, “brought them into his studio and really showed them what it meant to create, to make a work of art,” says Linetzky. “And this was just eye-opening to Hunk and Moo.”
With tutelage from Elsen and Oliveira, the Andersons turned their attention to the New York School, or Abstract Expressionism. Oliveira also introduced them to his fellow contemporary California artists, whose works the Andersons have collected in depth.
Over the years, the couple read books, visited museums and galleries, and developed relationships with collectors, curators, gallerists and dealers. Their passion led to what Linetzky describes as a “spectacular” trove devoted to postwar American art. “Some of the works that we have are on par with the objects at other great museums, but the intimacy here is fairly unique,” he says.
Anh-Minh Le is a Portola Valley freelancer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Linetzky, the Anderson Collection’s founding director, recommends allotting about 90 minutes for a visit. Here are just a handful of the museum’s highlights:
“Jackson Pollock’s ‘Lucifer’ is something that people come to see. It previously hung over Putter’s bed, before moving to the dining room and before coming here.”
“There’s an incredible Mark Rothko (‘Pink and White Over Red’) that’s just beautiful — a seductive red painting.”
“Robert Irwin’s untitled disk is capturing people’s attention. There’s this shadow quality — he was very interested in the transience of time and light. Hopefully you get lost in it a little bit.”
“Agnes Martin’s (Untitled #21) is another work that I would hope people come and spend time with. There are just these subtleties to the painting, and the balance of the palette is really wonderful.”
“David Park’s ‘Four Women’ has everything you could ask for in a Bay Area Figurative painting: color, light, brushstroke and passion for the craft of painting in midcentury California.”
If you go
The museum hosts lectures and events that are free and open to the public. 314 Lomita Drive, Stanford. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Friday-Monday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; closed on Tuesday. Admission is free. http://anderson.stanford.edu.