The couple met at 14 and married at 19. They began collecting in the 1970s and were drawn to the Nabis. “We neither one were educated, so we just started buying what we loved,” Mr. Hays said. “We decided we would never buy a painting that we didn’t both love and want to keep forever. So we’ve sold practically nothing.”
Scholars praised the coherence of the collection and said it would broaden the Musée d’Orsay’s range beyond Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. “This donation will let the Musée d’Orsay become a reference for the Nabis,” said Philippe Régnier, the editor of Le Quotidien de l’Art, a French arts daily.
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Gainesville, Tex. — near Paris, Tex., as he likes to note — Mr. Hays rose from humble origins and founded the Tom James Company, which makes bespoke clothing. He also owns other business ventures including Southwestern, which began as a bible publisher and now sells books door to door.
“In America I think we’re better than the French at entrepreneurship,” Mr. Hays said. He was wearing an American pinstripe suit and sipping a glass of Montrachet white wine. “But France is better at teaching culture and letting people know the importance of culture.”Continue reading the main story