The wayward life (1898–1979) of the voracious art collector and great female patron of world-famous artists.
‘Mrs Guggenheim, how many husbands have you had?’ ‘Do you mean my own, or other people’s?’ Peggy Guggenheim was an American millionairess art collector and legendary lover, whose father died on the Titanic returning from installing the lift machinery in the Eiffel Tower. She lived in Paris in the 1930s and got to know all the major artists – especially the Surrealists. (Later she bullied Max Ernst into marrying her, but was snubbed by Picasso.) When the Second World War broke out, she bought great numbers of paintings from artists fleeing to America; as a Jew she escaped from Vichy France and set up in New York, where in the 1940s and 50s she befriended and encouraged the New York School (Jackson Pollock, Rothko, etc.)
Her emotional life was in constant turmoil – a life of booze, bed and bohemia (mostly rich bohemia). Her favourite husband was a drunken English dilettante writer called Lawrence Vail, but she bedded many others, including Samuel Beckett. Later she moved to Venice, where her memory is enshrined in the world-famous palazzo that houses her Guggenheim Collection.
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‘Learned and wonderfully gossipy. Gill’s book is ripping, zestful and a treasure trove of spicy anecdotes and bitchy quotes’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times
‘Often touching and always richly entertaining, like its subject’ Hilary Spurling, Daily Telegraph
‘Anton Gill tells this extraordinary story with vigour and panache’ Selina Hastings, Sunday TelegraphFrom the Back Cover:
Peggy Guggenheim's tempestuous life (1898-1979) spanned the most exciting and volatile years of the twentieth century, and she lived it to the full. How she became one of the foremost collectors of modern art – and one of the century's most formidable lovers – is the subject of this authoritative and lively biography. 'Mrs Guggenheim, how many husbands have you had?', she was once asked. 'Do you mean my own, or other people's?'
Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the Titanic while he was returning from installing the lift machinery in the Eiffel Tower, and it was in Paris in the 1930s that the young heiress to a small fortune began to make her mark in the art world. Married uneasily to a drunken English dilettante writer called Laurence Vail, she joined the American expatriate bohemian set. Her many lovers included such lions of the world of art and literature as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst (whom she later married), Yves Tanguy and Roland Penrose. Yet her real love always seemed to elude her.
In the later 1930s Peggy set up one of the first galleries of modern art in London, quickly building up a magnificent selection of works by Picasso(who snubbed her), Magritte, Miro and Brancusi and buying great numbers of paintings from artists fleeing to America after the Nazi invasion of France. Escaping from Vichy France, she set up in New York, where she was hugely influential in assisting the beginnings of the new American Abstract Expressionist movement (in particular Jackson Pollock).
After the war, she returned to Europe, living in Venice until the end of her life. Today her memory is enshrined in the world-famous palazzo that houses her Guggenheim collection.
Meticulously researched, filled with colourful incident and a distinguished cast-list, Anton Gill's biography reveals the inner drives of a remarkable woman and indefatigable patron.
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