A Collector’s Passion: 100 Years of Paintings Inspired by the McKay Collection
March 16 – December 15, 2019
Gallery Hours: 12-4pm Saturday & Sunday
For more than 55 years, local historian Leonard McKay assembled a distinctive body of work comprised solely of historic paintings by Santa Clara Valley artists. McKay began collecting as early as World War II when he served with the U.S. Army First Infantry Division in Germany after the Battle of the Bulge. While overseas he collected several European art works; by 1960 he began focusing exclusively on work created by Santa Clara Valley artists.
In 1956, McKay purchased the Smith-McKay Printing Company from his grandmother Bessie Smith, who founded the company in 1919 with her husband Clifford, and her son Leonard Sr. One of McKay’s clients was the de Saisset Museum. While working with the museum’s director, Father Joséph Pociask, he met numerous local artists and began collecting their work. Sometimes he purchased works, and other times he traded printing jobs. McKay began attending art exhibitions and auctions to build the collection: “One of the things I like so much about these paintings is that they are a record for San José.” The resulting collection is wonderfully rich, diverse in styles and media, and a record of San José the Museum is proud to share with the public.
This collection has not been exhibited in its entirety since the Leonard and David McKay Gallery opened in 2005. While the McKay Collection is the basis and inspiration for this exhibition, additional works from the permanent collection have been added by the same local artists to enhance and expand appreciation of their artistic legacy.
About the Gallery
The Pasetta House was moved to History Park in 1985. Thanks to a generous gift from the Pasetta family, restoration of the house began in 2004; the building was dedicated in 2005. Leonard McKay was instrumental in planning this space as a gallery with climate control and lighting that would meet museum standards suitable for exhibiting art and artifacts. This generosity has afforded History San José the opportunity to host multiple exhibits and to display countless works from its collection. History San José wishes to thank these families for their significant and permanent contribution to History Park and to the community.
About Leonard McKay
A native of Los Gatos and World War II veteran, McKay ran the Smith and McKay Printing Company in San Jose until 1983, when he sold ownership to his son David. From 1986 to 2003, he operated Memorabilia of San José at 250 West St. John Street. In the 1960s, he began collecting paintings by local artists such as A.D.M. Cooper, Andrew Putnam Hill, and Louis O. Lussier. Passionate about local history, McKay was active in the Santa Clara County Pioneers, History San José, and the Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History.