Peggy Guggenheim

By: Lynn Peril
August 26, 2009


She had oodles of cash, acres of style, and eventually her very own 18th-century palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal, where she slept in a sterling silver bed designed by Alexander Calder. There was heartache — her father went down on the Titanic, her favorite sister died in childbirth, and her two marriages ended in divorce — but overall her life was a Who’s Who of the twentieth-century avant garde. PEGGY GUGGENHEIM (1898-1979) was photographed by Man Ray [in 1924, shown above], played tennis with Ezra Pound (“a good player, but he crowed like a rooster whenever he made a good stroke,” she remembered), and paid Jackson Pollock’s living expenses. She left a cavalcade of lovers in her wake, among them Samuel Beckett and the Surrealists Yves Tanguy and Max Ernst (her second husband). Above all, Guggenheim bought artworks. In 1939, armed with a list prepared by art critic Herbert Read, she put herself on “a regime to buy one picture a day” in anticipation of opening a London-based Museum of Modern Art. World War II intervened, so she ended up bequeathing the Picassos, Miros, Ernsts, Magrittes, and Dalis she’d purchased to a museum that she airily described as “my uncle’s garage. That Frank Lloyd Wright thing on Fifth Avenue.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Barbara Ehrenreich |

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).


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