McMaster Museum of Art
A Brief History of the Herman Levy Legacy //
Story by the McMaster Museum of Art
Alternate View
Without a doubt, one of the most significant donors to the McMaster Museum of Art was Dr. Herman Herzog Levy, O.B.E. (1902- 1990). Levy developed his interest in art while completing an apprenticeship in Amsterdam. Regular visits to the city’s many museums and galleries allowed him time to look at art and develop his eye.

When Levy met Lee

Dr. Alvin A. Lee served as President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University from 1980 to 1990 and was an influential champion of the University art gallery and collection.

He understood the broad educational benefit that art contributes to learning at a University and was directly responsible for the significant growth of the collection and development of the new Museum facility.

In 1983, Dr. Lee received a visit from Herman Levy. During their conversation, Levy asked, “What are your plans for the art gallery?” Ideas that had been germinating were set in motion.

The Levy Gift

In 1984 – 1985 Herman Levy gifted his extraordinary European art collection to McMaster University. The gift comprised 185 works including more than 40 paintings concentrating on 19th century French, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work.

The “inter vivos” gift meant that the objects would remain in Levy’s possession, hanging in his Hamilton home throughout his lifetime.

Photo: Interior of Levy’s Hamilton home.

Claude Monet. "Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect". 1903. Gift of Herman H. Levy. McMaster Museum of Art.
Albrecht Dürer. "The Sea Monster". 1498. Engraving on paper. Gift of Herman H. Levy. McMaster Museum of Art.

In November 1985, Herman Levy received a Doctor of Laws honoris causa, in honour of his exceptional contribution to the cultural life of Hamilton and generous donations to several Ontario art Museums. His modest response, was typical:

“It is strange that I am being rewarded for doing what I like doing best―looking at beautiful things.”

A lifelong learner, Levy audited lectures at McMaster University until a few months before he passed away, June 17, 1990.