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Kolb Collection

Half of the de Saisset Museum's permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects is works on paper. Nearly half of the works on paper collection, approximately 2,500 objects, was donated to the Museum by Dr. Leon and Mrs. Hilda Kolb.

Leon Kolb was born in Vietnam in 1890, studied medicine and settled in San Francisco in 1937. He worked as a Professor of Pharmacology at the Stanford School of Medicine, and he wrote several novels. However, his great passion, which he shared with his wife Hilda, was prints by artists well known and unknown from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The Kolbs collected thousands of prints by print masters such as Francesco Bartolozzi, Albrecht Durer, Martin Engelbrecht, Jan Wierix, William Hogarth, Anthony van Dyck, Lucan van Leyden, Bernard Picart, and Martin de Vos.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Kolbs began donating their vast collection of prints to educational institutions and museums, with the intention that they be used for education as well as exhibition. Institutions that received works from the Kolbs' collection include the American-Israel Cultural Foundation, Cantor Arts Center, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Haifa Music Museum and AMLI Library, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Stanford University, Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, and the de Saisset Museum.

The Kolbs were very mindful of the subject matter of the prints they donated in relation to the culture of the recipients. For instance, most of the prints given to the de Saisset have Catholic subjects such as saints; prints given to Temple Emanu-El predominantly depict subjects of Judaism; and the Haifa Music Museum received prints that featured musical instruments and composers. The Kolbs' numerous donations of artworks to the de Saisset, carefully and generously given, formed a foundation for the Museum's works on paper collection, one of the strengths of the permanent collection.