Anton Gill paints a colorful portrait of the late Peggy Guggenheim in his biography entitled, Art Lover. It begins where Peggy began, being the young daughter of a Jewish family in New York’s elite inner circle at the turn of the last century. From there, the book unfolds into Peggy’s illustrious life abroad.
Donna Seaman explains it best in Booklist, “Gill patiently records every battle in her two violently contentious marriages, her compulsive promiscuity, miserable failure at motherhood, and peripatetic lifestyle, then, with a sigh of relief, concentrates on her vision and generosity in supporting avant-garde writers and artists and her influential role as gallery owner and pioneering modern art collector. In spite of much chaos and unhappiness, Guggenheim–flamboyant and audacious, a magnet for gossip and a champion of artistic freedom–did move culture forward in the face of fascism, virulent anti-Semitism, and pervasive sexism.”
Guggenheim was Neither
Guggenheim was not one of her richer relatives, nor was she known to be a great beauty, however Gill focuses on not only how this would later form her life, but also how it would change it. Peggy preferred Europe to America and often used her sexuality to claim the things that she wanted- whether they be an artist or a painting.
Gill outlines Peggy’s early life in a series of re-tellings about Peggy’s early marriage to the Dad sculptor, Laurance Veil. Together they would have two children and a very tumultuous relationship that would inevitably end in divorce. Gill depicts her life in New York with Veil, their move to Europe which seemed to only strengthen the intensity of Peggy and Laurance’s arguments, culminating in the destruction of furniture and prized possessions more often than not. Laurance’s affair with Kate Boyle would ultimately destroy the marriage and Peggy would go on to marry Max Ernst for a brief time.
Her Gift to Modern Art
According to Gill, Peggy lived out the remainder of her life in Venice where her collections still remains. In recent years, her home has opened as a museum, inviting guests from all over the world to see what was once only privy to Guggenheim and a select few of her artistic circle.
Following her death, Peggy Guggenheim was laid to rest in Italy. Her marker lays next to a plaque remembering all of the dogs that she had owned during her life.
Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim by Anton Gill can be purchased online through ISBN 006095681X from Harper Perennial.