The Malcove Collection, University of Toronto

Dr. Lillian Malcove (1902-1981) was a Freudian psychoanalyst who lived in New York City all of her professional life. Her formative years, however, were spent in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where her family immigrated from Mogliev, Russia in 1905. After obtaining a medical degree at the University of Manitoba, Lillian moved to New York to specialize in psychiatry. It was there, surrounded by some of the best museums and galleries in the world, that her passion for cultural history was kindled and she started buying art.

Over the course of fifty years, Dr. Malcove’s art collection grew to 513 objects, each a reflection of her varied interests and prodigious knowledge. There are paintings, drawings, furniture, icons, manuscripts, and textiles, as well as works in terracotta, glass, bronze, stone, enamel, ivory, silver and gold. These works represent a vast range of art history, from prehistory to the twentieth century, including Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and western medieval objects and even a few pieces from the Far East. All were displayed in Dr. Malcove’s Manhattan apartment, which was equipped with a climate control system to ensure their preservation and well-being.

When she died in 1981, Dr. Malcove bequeathed her magnificent art collection to the University of Toronto, to serve as a useful and inspiring resource for students, faculty and the general public. Since its arrival at the university in 1982, the Malcove Collection has been incorporated into course offerings, studied by scholars around the globe, and shared with cultural institutions through special loans. We know quite a bit about the works, but very little about the person behind this eclectic assemblage of objects. When did she start the Collection? How did she decide what to buy? Was she a wealthy woman? Did she use the Collection in her psychoanalytic practice? Why did she choose to donate the Collection to the University of Toronto? The Lillian Malcove Biography Project hopes to answer these and many other questions.