Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim

Birth
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 23 Dec 1979 (aged 81)
Camposampiero, Provincia di Padova, Veneto, Italy
Burial
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Camposampiero, Provincia di Padova, Veneto, Italy
Plot Nasher Sculpture Garden
Memorial ID 3487 · View Source
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Modern Art Collector, Socialite. Born Marguerite Guggenheim, she was always called Peggy and, in spite of multiple marriages, was known as Mrs. Guggenheim. Born into two extremely wealthy New York families, she was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, one of seven sons of Meyer Guggenheim who amassed a huge fortune in the late 19th century in mining and smelting silver, copper, and brass. Her mother, Florette Seligman came from a family of wealthy bankers. Peggy once said that she came from two of the best Jewish families, one of her grandfathers was born over a stable in Bavaria and the other grandfather was once a peddler. Her father died in the RMS Titanic disaster in 1912 and did not have the fortune that his brothers eventually earned. On her 21st birthday she inherited $2.5 million in a trust that brought her an income of $22,500 a year. Her first job was as a clerk at the Sunwise Turn, an avant-garde bookstore. There she met and admired people in the bohemian artistic community. Around 1920 she moved to Paris and became friends with avant-garde writers and artists. In 1938 she opened a modern art gallery in London. At that time she began to collect contemporary abstract and Surrealist Art, and was introduced to artists during her trips to Paris. She was not an expert in art but took good advice when buying, and bought art that she loved but was not necessarily popular at the time, she said that she never paid more than $10,000 for a painting and often bought directly from the artist for less than $1,000. She acquired art for only a few years of her life, from 1938 to 1940 in England and France and 1941 to 1946 in America. Her London gallery operated at a loss and she decided to open a museum of her collection there. The $40,000 budget for the museum operating costs did not cover the expenses. She borrowed works of art from a list given to her by art historian, Herbert Read. When World War II broke out in Europe she abandoned the list and the museum project. She began to purchase one picture a day from the artists on Herbert Reads list. She rented a large space in the Place Vendome in Paris and opened her new museum there. As the German army approached Paris she abandoned her plan for the museum and fled to the south of France and returned to New York in 1941. In 1942 she opened a new gallery/museum named “The Art of This Century Gallery” showing all of her Cubist, Abstract, Kinetic and Surrealist works. Among the shows held there was one for 31 women artists. After World War II, in 1947, she returned to Europe purchasing the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal of Venice as her home. She filled it with her art collection and opened it to the public every summer. In 1976 she donated her entire collection to the Solomon G. Guggenheim Foundation in New York. She continued living in Venice until her death of a stroke in 1979. It was said that she had “a healthy sexual appetite” and that she had a thousand lovers while living in Europe. Her first marriage was to Laurence Vail 1922 to 1930, he was a Dada sculptor and writer, sometimes called an anti-semitic brute, they had two children. Her second marriage was to Max Ernst 1941 to 1946, he was an artist and German refugee. Ernst left her for one of the 31 artists in the show at “The Art of This Century Gallery”. She had affairs between and during her marriages, published names include Samuel Beckett, the Irish author, Roland Penrose, E.L. T. Mesens, John Ferrar Holmes, a writer and war hero, Douglas Garman, and Yves Tanguy, an artist.

Bio by: Gail Campbell Schulte


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 19 Aug 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3487
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Peggy Guggenheim (26 Aug 1898–23 Dec 1979), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3487, citing Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Camposampiero, Provincia di Padova, Veneto, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave .