- Peggy Guggenheim
Peggy Guggenheim (
August 26, 1898– December 23, 1979) was an American artcollector. Born Marguerite Guggenheim to a wealthy New York Cityfamily, she was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, who went down with the "Titanic" in 1912 and the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, who would establish the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Peggy's father was of Swiss-German Jewishorigin, and her mother Jewish, German, and Dutch.
Inheritance, involvement in the art/writing community
At the age of 21 Peggy Guggenheim inherited a small fortune, but as the less wealthy branch of the family, it was an amount far less than the vast wealth of her father's siblings.
She was a clerk in an avant-garde bookstore when she first became enamored with the members of the bohemian artistic community. In 1920 she went to live in
Paris, France. Once there, she became friendly with avant-gardewriters and artists, many of whom were living in poverty in the MontparnasseQuarter of the city. Man Rayphotographed her, [http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/aria/aria_assets/RP-F-F17662?lang=en] and he along with Constantin Brancusiand Marcel Duchampwere all friends whose art she promoted.
She became close friends with writer
Natalie Barneyand artist Romaine Brooks, and was a regular at Barney's stylish salon. She met Djuna Barnesduring this time, and in time became her friend and patron. Barnes wrote her best known novel, "Nightwood" while staying at the Devonshire country manor, 'Hayford Hall', that Guggenheim had rented for two summers.
Collecting, before World War II
In 1938 she opened a gallery for modern art in
Londonfeaturing Jean Cocteauand began to collect works of art. After the outbreak of World War II, she purchased as much abstract and Surrealistart as possible.
Peggy Guggenheim opened the gallery
Guggenheim Jeunein Londonin January 1938 — the name being quite ingeniously chosen to associate the epitome of a gallery, the French Bernheim Jeune, with the name of her own well known family. The gallery on 30 Cork Street, next to Roland Penrose's and E. L. T. Mesens' show-case for the Surrealist movement, the London Gallery, proved to be quite successful, thanks to many friends who gave advice and who helped run the gallery. Marcel Duchamp, whom she had known since the early 1920s, when she lived in Pariswith her first husband Laurence Vail, was taken on to introduce Peggy Guggenheim to the art world; it was through him that she met many artists during her frequent visits to Paris. He taught her about contemporary art and styles, and he conceived several of the exhibitions held at Guggenheim Jeune.
The gallery's opening show was dedicated to
Jean Cocteau. It was followed by exhibitions on Wassily Kandinsky(his first one-man-show in England), Yves Tanguy, Wolfgang Paalenand several other well known and some lesser-known artists. Peggy Guggenheim also held group exhibitions of sculpture and collage, with the participation of the now classic moderns Antoine Pevsner, Henry Moore, Henri Laurens, Alexander Calder, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, George Braqueand Kurt Schwitters.She also greatly admired the work of John Tunnard(1900-1971) and is credited with his discovery in mainstream international modernism.
Plans for a museum
When Peggy Guggenheim realised that her gallery, although well received had made an actual loss of £600 in the first year, she decided to take up this idea and spend the money in a much more practical way. A museum for contemporary arts was exactly the institution she could see herself supporting. Most certainly on her mind were also the adventures of her uncle,
Solomon R. Guggenheimin New York, who, with the help and encouragement of Hilla Rebay, had created the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation two years earlier. The main aim of this foundation had been to collect and to further the production of abstract art, resulting in the opening of the Museum of Non-objective Painting (from 1952: The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum) earlier in 1939 on East 54th Street in Manhattan. Peggy Guggenheim closed Guggenheim Jeune with a farewell party on 22 June 1939, at which colour portrait photographs by Gisèle Freundwere projected on the walls. She started making plans for a Museum of Modern Art in London together with the English art historianand art critic Herbert Read. She set aside $40,000 for the museum's running costs. However, these funds were soon overstretched with the organisers' ambitions.
In August 1939, Peggy Guggenheim left for Paris to negotiate loans for the first exhibition. In her luggage was a list drawn up by Herbert Read for this occasion.Shortly after her departure the Second World War broke out, and the events following 1 September 1939 made her abandon the scheme, willingly or not.
She then "decided now to buy paintings by all the painters who were on Herbert Read's list. Having plenty of time and all the museum's funds at my disposal, I put myself on a regime to buy one picture a day." [Peggy Guggenheim: Confessions of an Art Addict: 69.] When finished, she had acquired ten Picassos, forty Ernsts, eight Mirós, four Magrittes, three
Man Rays, three Dalís, one Klee, one Wolfgang Paalenand one Chagall among others. In the meantime, she had also made new plans and in April 1940 had rented a large space in the Place Vendôme as a new home for her museum.
A few days before the Germans reached Paris, Peggy Guggenheim had to abandon her plans for a Paris museum, and fled to the south of France, from where, after months of safeguarding her collection and artist friends, she left Europe for New York in the summer of 1941. There, in the following year, she opened a new gallery which actually was in part a museum. It was called "
The Art of This Century Gallery". Two of the three galleries were dedicated to Cubism and Surrealism, with only the third, the front room, being a commercial gallery.
As a result of her interest in new artists she was instrumental in advancing the careers of many important modern artists, including the American painter
Jackson Pollock, the Austrian surrealist Wolfgang Paalen, the sound poet Ada Verdun Howelland the German painter Max Ernst, whom she married in 1942.
The collection, after World War II
World War II— and her 1946 divorce from Max Ernst — she closed " The Art of This Century Gallery" in 1947, and returned to Europe; deciding to live in Venice, Italy. In 1948, she was invited to exhibit her collection in the disused Greek Pavilion of the Venice Biennaleand eventually established herself in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal.
Her collection became one of the few European collections of modern art to promote a significant amount of works by Americans.
By the early 1960s, Peggy Guggenheim had stopped collecting art and began to concentrate on presenting what she already owned. She loaned out her collection to museums throughout
Europeand America, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museumin New York City, which was named after her uncle. Eventually, she decided to donate her large home and her collection to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation on her death. [ [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=2854 Go Go Guggenheim - The New York Review of Books ] ]
Peggy Guggenheim Collection" is one of the most important museums in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. Pieces in her collection embrace Cubism, Surrealismand Abstract Expressionism.
Peggy Guggenheim lived in Venice until her death in
Padua, Italy. She is interred in the garden (later: Nasher Sculpture Garden) of her home, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (Inside the Peggy Guggenheim Museum), next to her beloved dogs.
Private life / gossip
Starting in late December 1937, she and
Samuel Becketthad a brief affair. [cite book | author = Anton Gill | title = Art Lover : A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim | publisher = Perennial | location = New York, NY | year = | pages = | isbn = 0-06-095681-X | oclc = | doi = ]
Peggy Guggenheim's first marriage was to Laurence Vail, a
Dadasculptor and writer with whom she had two children, Michael Sindbad and Pegeen. They divorced following his affair with writer Kay Boyle, whom he later married.
She married her second husband,
Max Ernst, in 1942 and divorced him in 1946.
Her autobiography claims many affairs with artists, as well as many artists and others claim affairs with her — even fictional, for example William Boyd's Nat Tate. [William Boyd: Nat Tate: American Artist, 1928–1960, 21 Publishing Ltd, 1998]
She has 8 grandchildren: Clovis, Mark, Karole and Julia Vail, from her son, and Fabrice, David and Nicolas Hélion and Sandro Rumney from her daughter.
Peggy Guggenheim is portrayed by
Amy Madiganin the movie Pollock (2000), directed by Ed Harris, based on the life of Jackson Pollock.
A play by Lanie Robertson based on Peggy Guggenheim's life, "Woman Before a Glass", opened at the Promenade Theatre on Broadway, New York on March 10, 2005. It is a one woman show, which focuses on Peggy Guggenheim's later life.
Mercedes Ruehlplays Peggy Guggenheim. Ruehl received an Obie awardfor her performance.
The Art of This Century Gallery"
* Mary V. Dearborn, "Affairs of the Art: Mistress of Modernism, The Life of Peggy Guggenheim" (Houghton Mifflin, 2004, ISBN 0618128069)
* Anton Gill. "Art Lover : A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim" (New York, NY: Perennial. ISBN 0-06-095681-X)
* Jacqueline Bograd Weld, "Peggy, the Wayward Guggenheim" (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1986)
* Susan Davidson and Philip Rylands, eds. (2005). "Peggy Guggenheim & Fredrick Kiesler: The Story of Art of This Century" (exhibition catalogue), Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection | ISBN 0-89207-320-9
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