Marion Koogler McNay

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Marion Koogler McNay
Marion Koogler McNay.jpg
Marion Koogler McNay, 1915
Born Jessie Marion Koogler
(1883-02-07)7 February 1883
De Graff, Ohio, United States[1]
Died 13 April 1950(1950-04-13) (aged 67)
San Antonio, Texas, United States
Nationality USA
Known for Painter

Marion Koogler McNay (7 February 1883 – 13 April 1950), was an American painter and art teacher who inherited a substantial oil fortune upon the death of her father. She later willed her fortune to be used to establish San Antonio's first museum of modern art, which today bears her name.[2]

Early life[edit]

Marion was born in Ohio to Marion and Clara Koogler. A year after her birth, the family moved to El Dorado, Kansas, where her parents purchased a large tract of pasture land. This land later proved to contain substantial oil reserves, and made the family wealthy.[2] This allowed Marion to attend the University of Kansas and the Art Institute of Chicago.


Marion married her first husband, railway manager Don McNay, in 1917. The marriage only lasted 10 months, ending with Don's death from influenza. Although Marion went on to marry (and divorce) four more times, she eventually reverted to using the name McNay for the remainder of her life.[2] She married and financially supported artist Victor Higgins in 1937, but the two separated only two years later and divorced in 1930.[3]


In 1915, while she was living with her parents, the superintendent of city schools of Marion, Ohio wrote that she

is one of the best qualified art teachers I have ever known. She teaches art in a manner that arouses and develops the child’s observation and enlarges his aesthetic nature.[4]

Art collection[edit]

In 1926, after the death of her father, Marion moved to San Antonio with her mother and married Dr. Donald Atkinson. On his property, she began to construct a Spanish Mediterranean style mansion (she designed some of the tilework and ceiling stencils herself),[2] which was completed in 1927.[5] She also began to accumulate a significant collection of artwork. The first oil painting she purchased was Diego Rivera’s Delfina Flores. She collected a large number of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art, early 20th-century modernists including Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall. She also bought a number of Southwestern santos and retablos.[4]

Pueblo Indian patronage[edit]

Marion was a significant patron of the arts among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, where she made frequent trips.[4] In 1943, Congress proposed a bill providing for the exploration of Pueblo lands with the ultimate goal of building a dam on the Rio Grande. Marion, in conjunction with other conservationists, was instrumental in defeating this proposal.[2]

Death and art museum establishment[edit]

Upon Marion's death, caused by pneumonia in 1950, she willed her fortune, her art collection, and her home to a trust to convert her home into a modern art museum. This was the first museum of its kind in San Antonio and the Southwest region of the United States. The museum was named after her, and has been expanded to include galleries of medieval and Renaissance artwork and a larger collection of 20th-century European and American modernist work. A large theatre arts library and gallery were also added, as well as an art reference library and an auditorium. More recently, the McNay Art Museum recently added the Stieren Center, built by internationally renowned architect Jean-Paul Viguier, to display their Modern collection.


  1. ^ Marion Koogler McNay, Handbook of Texas Online, University of Texas at Austin, 2001-06-01. Accessed 2007-10-08.
  2. ^ a b c d e Burkhalter, Lois Wood. Marion Koogler McNay: A Biography, 1883-1950 (San Antonio: Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, 1968)
  3. ^ Porter, Dean (1999). Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950. Notre Dame, Indiana: Snite Museum of Art. pp. 144–151. ISBN 0826321097.
  4. ^ a b c Biography. "Dedicated to the Advancement and the Enjoyment of Modern Art." Teacher Resource Center at the McNay Art Museum. [1]
  5. ^ Marion Koogler McNay Archived 2006-10-15 at the Wayback Machine., Fine Art Dealers' Association. Accessed 2007-10-08.