Mary Margaret 'Moo' Anderson, art collector and philanthropist, dies at 92 | October 30, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Community - October 30, 2019

Mary Margaret 'Moo' Anderson, art collector and philanthropist, dies at 92

by Rick Radin

Mary Margaret "Moo" Anderson, who along with her husband, donated the core of her family's 20th-century American art collection to Stanford University, died Oct. 22 at her home in Atherton at the age of 92, according to a news release from the university.

The Andersons announced in 2011 that they would donate 121 works by 86 artists to the university, with Stanford in charge of constructing a free-standing building to house the collection. The Anderson Collection, which is housed next to the university's Cantor Arts Center, opened its doors in 2014.

By that time, the Andersons had already donated much of their collection, which once numbered more than 1,200 pieces of art, to various museums, including Stanford, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Mary Margaret Anderson's husband, Harry "Hunk" Anderson, died last year at the age of 95.

The Anderson gallery includes works from schools of American modern art including abstract Impressionism, color field painting, post-minimalism, California funk art, and light and space. Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Morris Louis, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella and Jackson Pollock are among the artists that are included.

"Mary Margaret Anderson will forever be remembered for her love of art, but also for her love of sharing art," Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement. "In the early days of her and Hunk's collecting, she listened and learned from curators and art historians, and spent a great deal of time examining the artwork in museums, galleries and artists' studios in person."

Mary Margaret Anderson was born in Boston and graduated from D'Youville College in Buffalo, New York. She met her husband in Geneva, New York, in the summer of 1948, according to the news release.

They were married there two years later before the couple moved to Ohio, where their daughter Mary Patricia "Putter" was born. The family then moved to the Bay Area in 1964, when Harry Anderson opened the national headquarters of Saga, a food service company specializing in serving college dormitories nationwide, in Palo Alto. Saga later moved to Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, where Quadrus is now located.

The Andersons first fell in love with Impressionist art during a trip to Europe in the 1960s and started collecting art shortly after.

They soon began working with Stanford art professors Nathan Oliveira and Albert Elsen, focusing on 20th-century American art, where they found that more high-quality works were available compared with the older European paintings.

At first, they displayed and stored the art in their home, but as the collection grew, Harry Anderson began exhibiting some of the works from the collection on the walls of the Saga Foods headquarters.

Mary Margaret Anderson also developed a library of art books and catalogs related to the art and artists represented in the collection, according to Stanford.

As part of the Andersons' original gift, they donated a large percentage of that library to Stanford so that scholars can benefit from the same educational material as the family.

Some of the books and catalogues are signed by authors or artists. The printed materials, housed in the Denning Family Resource Center at the museum, help fulfill the educational mission of the Anderson Collection and have become a vital library and teaching space within the museum.

More than 30 doctoral candidates in art history at the university have interned at the Anderson family collection and the Anderson Collection at Stanford, engaging in intensive study and curating exhibitions.

"It's good to study art in books, but something happens in the presence of the original. It affects the brain, taste, feelings and more," Mary Margaret Anderson said at the opening of the Anderson Collection. "I think in order to enjoy art, you have to share it."

After her husband's death in 2018, Mary Margaret Anderson and her daughter continued to collect art with an emphasis on emerging artists, according to the news release.

Mary Margaret Anderson remained involved with the Anderson Collection until her death, and saw it grow through gifts from other members of the community. She also loaned artwork from her private collection to the museum in order to engage visitors in new ways, according to the Stanford news release.

"Moo's gifts of passion, of warmth and of believing that great art belongs to the world will forever energize the collection and the students and guests who visit and learn from it," said Jason Linetzky, the Anderson Collection's director.

Mary Margaret Anderson was also a volunteer at the Sacred Heart Schools, the St. Francis Center in Redwood City and Stanford Hospital for many years, and enjoyed working with children through Art in Action in Menlo Park, according to an obituary written by the family. She was also an entrepreneur and part owner of 3EP LTD, an art publishing workshop in Palo Alto, her family said.

"She was savvy, thoughtful, curious, and energetic, bringing 150% to everything she did," the Anderson family said.

Anderson is survived by her daughter, Mary Patricia Anderson Pence of Los Angeles, and a granddaughter, Devin Pence. The family has planned a private mass in her honor.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Anderson's memory may be made to the St. Francis Center, 151 Buckingham Ave., Redwood City, California 94063.

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