Peggy Guggenheim was born in the rented rooms of Hotel Majestic on East 69th Street, on the 26th of August 1898. Her sister Benita born three years prior to Peggy. Her parents originally named her Marguerite. In her time it was typical for a women of high standards to be married off to another wealthy family. Peggy was destined to escape such formalities.
Peggy’s family had substantially grown in wealth by the time world War I had broken out. Her farther Benjamin Guggenheim and his brother owned nearly 80% of the world’s Silver, Copper, and Lead. Constantly fighting it out between other mining companies backed by the Rockefeller and others extremely wealthy families, Benjamin lost interest. Drawing away completely in an unofficial retirement in 1901. He still managed to gain an income $250,000 a year from stock market ownership.
Florette Guggenheim maiden name Seligman was a mother of three including Peggy. She had an odd habit of repeating things three times. In one instance she was ordering a hat and had asked for a feather to be added onto the thing, but instead received three on top. As she had said “Add a feather, a feather, a feather.” To say the least, an interesting character.
“My childhood was excessively unhappy.”
— Peggy Guggenheim
Most of Peggy’s childhood was spent in the mansions of Fifth Avenue in New York City. She and her two sisters had the entire 4th floor to themselves. At age 4 Peggy and her elder sister Benita were painted by Franz von Lenbach who depicted Peggy unlike her true self. With brown eyes instead of her beautiful green and red hair instead of chestnut. For Benita on the other hand he was less fanciful.
With Florette and the girls (Benita, Peggy, and Hazel) living in New York City. Benjamin and his mistress spent most of their time in Paris, France. As result he hardly ever saw his children. Though one time when he was traveling back the America for his daughter Hazel’s Birthday, the ship he had booked in advance was unavailable when the day came to sail as the crew was on strike. In a rush, Benjamin boarded the Titanic. He did not survive the tragedy, but is has been reported that his mistress lived to tell the tale.
It was at this time that Peggy’s life changed profoundly. Her mother quickly became reluctant to travel by ship. Soon Peggy was going to public school for the first time, having only been private tutored her entire life.
Her first job was as a clerk in an avant-garde bookstore. From here Peggy’s interest in art started and then expanded. In 1920 Peggy visited Paris and was quickly introduced to a variety of avant-garde writers and artists including Marcel Durchamp and Constatin Brâncuși whose art she later featured. It was the year 1922 when Peggy met her first husband Laurence Vail.
Laurence was an avant-garde writer and artist who wrote an entire book called “Murder! Murder!” about Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy had several affairs even while married to Vail including Max Ernst another artist she would feature. Peggy officially left Laurence Vail for John Holmes in 1928. The two continued to stay in contact and be friends even after the divorce.
Tragically John Holmes died young in 1938. A year later World War II broke out. Peggy promptly proclaims that it is her duty to protect the art of her time and began purchasing numerous pieces of art while a friend stored them away safely in a barn house.
For Peggy a painting a day keeps the doctor away. In fact she nearly purchased a piece everyday, quickly amassing a large collection. The day that Hitler invaded Norway Peggy purchased “Men in the City” by the french artist Fernand Lěger.
Peggy assisted Varian Fry in providing artists with the means of escaping the Ghettos. Buying several safe passages for close friends including Max Ernst. Many artists in gratitude gave several of their works to her.
After the bloody battles and the war had been settled Peggy Guggenheim showed her collection of art for the first time in 1927 with Venice Biennle (an art organisation).
She was the first to discover Jackson Pollock and his magnificent works. Pollock originally worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and had seen a showing of Pablo Piscasso which had originally inspired his artistic style. His first showing took place in in Italy the year being 1950.
Settling down in Venice, Italy Peggy continues to purchase works from artists for the rest of her life. Om 23rd of December 1979, Peggy passed into the after life. Her home in Venice became one of the most important art museum in Italy where her personal collection is showed.
Being a socialite Peggy lived life to the fullest. Her ashes are placed in a corner of the garden in Palzazzo Venier dei Leoni next to where she customarily buried her dogs.