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CULTURE

Texan widow gives massive donation of art to Musée d’Orsay in Paris

A Texan widow who discovered a love for French art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s is to donate another part of her vast collection of 19th-century masterpieces to France.

Texan widow gives massive donation of art to Musée d'Orsay in Paris
Photo: AFP
Marlene Hays and her late husband, businessman Spencer Hays, had already given 187 artworks to the Orsay museum in Paris worth more than €173 million, the biggest donation to a French museum since World War II. 
   
Now Hays, 82, who was widowed in 2017, is giving a further donation of 106 works from mostly post-Impressionist artists including Matisse, Bonnard, Modigliani and the sculptor Camille Claudel.
   
The latest gift of 40 paintings, 47 works on paper and 19 sculptures brings the Hays' donation to the world's greatest collection of Impressionist art to nearly 300 pieces.
   
The couple – who used to give each other masterworks for their birthdays – were made commanders of the Legion d'Honneur, one of France's highest honours, for their generosity by former president, Francois Hollande, in 2016.
 
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Photo: AFP
   
Spencer Hays said then that their private collection of more than 600 artworks worth an estimated €350 million “would be gifted to the French people for the benefit of art lovers around the world” after their death.
   
French Culture Minister Franck Riester praised Marlene Hays for her “exceptional gesture… which is a historic enrichment of France's national collection” of late 19th-century and early 20th-century art.
   
He said Marlene had started collecting US art in the early 1970s before becoming fascinated by the “Nabi” post-Impressionist movement and art that depicted Paris.
 
The couple built a perfect replica of an 18th-century Paris mansion, the Hotel de Noirmoutier, in Nashville where they lived.
   
Spencer Hays was a colourful businessman who began his career as a door-to-door book salesman for the Southwestern Company in Texas before rising to become its majority shareholder. 
   
“When Marlene and I grew up in a little town in Gainesville, Texas, even visiting France was far beyond our greatest expectations,” he said when the couple donated the first part of their collection.
   
“But in 1971 we made our first trip to Paris, and our love affair with this wonderful country began,” he added.

Member comments

  1. No mention that they co-founded the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay in 2013? Nor that her husband was a Legion of Honour?

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CULTURE

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?

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