Fryberger, Betsy G. and Stanford Historical Society
In their oral history from 2016, Harry W. "Hunk" Anderson and his wife, Mary Margaret "Moo" Anderson, talk about their love of art and how it led to their collection of highly regarded post-World War II American art, and their gift of more than 175 major paintings and sculpture to Stanford University, made together with their daughter, Mary Patricia Pence (“Putter”).
Hunk speaks of a blue-collar childhood as the son of a glass blower in Corning, New York, where he attended a one-room schoolhouse through fifth grade. Born in Boston, Moo says her family moved to Geneva, in upstate New York, where she met Hunk at the local yacht club.
Describing how he founded Saga with two fellow undergraduates, Hunk recalls how the opportunity arose when Hobart decided to close its dining facilities, overwhelmed by the postwar influx of students. Hunk explains how the three college seniors invested $500 apiece from their previous business and persuaded Hobart to give them a contract. Hunk remembers recruiting ninety-nine students to sign up for the new service, which offered prime rib on opening night. As other clients came forward, Hunk says, the business grew quickly, so that he and Moo spent the early years of their marriage on the road to set up operations on other campuses. Then Hunk explains how he persuaded the team to make the leap to California, building a corporate headquarters on Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, then mostly undeveloped.
Hunk discusses a series of events that led to their reincarnation as art collectors: a 1964 trip to the Louvre in Paris; Moo’s enrollment in a course with Albert Elsen, professor of art history at Stanford; and advice from an expanding network of curators and gallery owners, including Henry Sayles Francis, William Rubin, and Eugene Thaw. He recalls how Thaw led them to a key acquisition, Jackson Pollock’s Lucifer, which motivated Hunk and Moo to build a collection around postwar art. Moo tells how they acquired the original prints celebrated in Richard Diebenkorn’s 41 Etchings Drypoints, published by Crown Point Press, which led to collecting prints published by such outstanding publishers as Gemini GEL and U.L.A.E.
Hunk recalls working with Elsen in 1975 to create an ongoing art internship program at the Anderson collection, then housed at Saga headquarters and the Andersons’ home. Stanford graduate students were invited to intern; they helped arrange small exhibitions and write essays for brochures. Many of them later chose museum careers.
As their influence grew, Hunk notes, their collection was highlighted in exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and at the Stanford University Museum of Art. They also made major gifts to the two San Francisco museums. Moo describes organizing shows at Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton and, with the Committee of Art, at the Stanford University Medical Center, and her experience as a partner in 3EP Press, which published monotypes. In 1985, Hunk hires Leo Holub, who had taught photography at Stanford, to make photographic portraits of the artists represented in the Anderson Collection--a project that occupied Holub for more than a decade. The Andersons gave a set of almost seven hundred proofs of Holub’s photographs to The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center at Stanford University (formerly the Stanford University Museum of Art).
Crediting former Stanford University President John L. Hennessy with the agreement to build a home for their collections, Hunk refers briefly to the dedicated building: The Anderson Collection at Stanford University. It opened in 2014.
Harry W. Anderson, Mary Margaret Anderson, Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, higher education, art education, and art internship
March 8, 2016
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012