Tuesday, June 9, 2015

McNay Museum San Antonio

In order to understand this museum, you need to understand the woman who created it. Jessie Marion Koogler was a woman born before her time. She was the only child of a Doctor who became wealthy when oil was discovered on his land. Jessie attended the University of Kansas then the art school of the Art Institute of Chicago, it was during this time that she began to use her middle name. In 1917 she fell in love and married the great love of her life, Don Denton McNay. 

Tragically he died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 less than a year after their marriage. Marion married and divorced several times but she always returned to the name McNay and also gave it to the Museum she left which was the ultimate tribute to Don.



In 1926, Marion commissioned a house in San Antonio which she called Sunset Hills. Built in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style it is the home which holds her collection today. Around this same time she became a serious collector of Art, at one time there was even a school of art on the property. The first painting she purchased is entitled, Delfina Flores.





When Marion died in 1950, she left a collection of over 200 items and it was opened to the public in 1954. She also left an endowment and together with further donations the collection has grown to over 1600 items about 900 of which will be on display at any given time. The McNay is primarily about modern art but you will be amazed by the wonderful medieval items. You walk into recreated rooms that take you to back to the middle ages complete with paneling and furniture and works of Flemish art. 

There is no guarantee about what will be on display but we saw a Mary Cassatt head of a young girl, Degas, Seurat, Pendergast, Homer, Picasso, Klee, Chagall and a monumental Monet of can you guess, lily pads. There is also a nice collection of Galle vases.



The Interior courtyard, The Blackburn patio is worthy of a tour. The tiles were made especially made for the patio. It is the home to several very beautiful sculptures done in bronze and one in aluminum. It was used as an outdoor artist studio in Mrs. McNay’s day and is still a favorite spot to sketch today.


We began our visit by watching a short orientation film that introduced us to Marion and the museum. Don’t pass on this, it really sets the stage for your visit. The museum is set on two levels but there is an elevator and is wheel chair accessible.

Free parking is available in their parking lot. Take the time to walk in the grounds. There are sculptures and even in January, the gardens were worth a look. The gift shop as expected was quite well stocked with a variety of eclectic items. Entrance is free but you are strongly encouraged to donate $5 per person.

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