PEGGY: The Wayward Guggenheim by Jacqueline Bograd Weld

PEGGY: The Wayward Guggenheim

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Long, steady, sober biography of America's ever-more-ravaged art-lover, painter-collector, and eccentric millionairess Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy was born into ""Our Crowd,"" the wealthiest Jews in New York at the turn of the century. Her mother and father were ever at war over his philandering--until he went down, dressed to the hilt, on The Titanic. He'd had business losses and Peggy found herself a poor rich girl with only $450,000 in her personal trust fund. Never going to school, she and her two sisters were lonely children and were raised in horror of the poor immigrant Jews flooding the US. Among her friends, a really good marriage was to a truly wealthy gentile, and so Peggy never had a Jewish lover until--at 51--she fell for Raoul, a Jewish Tarzan in Venice. He joined a long list of her promiscuous conquests, mainly artists, the most famous of whom probably was Max Ernst, who, fearful of poverty, married her. Shy, reclusive, with big begging cerulean eyes (and a nose that grew very large and bulbous as the years passed), Peggy sailed for Europe at 21 and didn't come back for over 20 flamboyant years, during which she'd become a famed art addict, party-giver and seductress. Returning, she brought her collection of Dada and Surrealist works, and with it opened what became the most influential American gallery in the 20th century. Her interests expanded to the unknown young American painters--whom she discovered and supported--including Motherwell, Rothko, Still, Hofmann and especially Jackson Pollock--and who became the Abstract Expressionists, a group reviled by established dealers. Her support of Pollock was double-edged. She collected his entire output each year (but for one canvas), in return for her rather minimal financial support, and some think she took Pollock for a ride. Her later and twilight years were spent in Venice, where she opened a famous gallery in her home, gave parties and put together a traveling collection. She had no center, only things. Earlier, when she'd visited Picasso's studio to buy a painting, he'd told her contemptuously, ""Lingerie is on the next floor."" Bizarre, absorbing, but uninspired bio.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1986
Publisher: Dutton