After years of playing dutiful wife or confidante to a string of men, Peggy Guggenheim found herself alone and bored with domestic life. She turned to collecting modern art, partly because it was a sure attention-getter, partly to vex her bourgeois mother and partly out of genuine interest. Besides introducing the European avant-garde to America, she helped discover American artists like Pollock, Rothko and Motherwell. This study, written with Guggenheim's cooperation until her death in 1979, is the first biogrpahy of a remarkable woman. Weld evenhandedly catalogues Guggenheim's lovers, husbands, scandals. She shows the flaws of a woman disliked by some for her abrasive tongue and bitchiness, but whose energy, conviction and farsightedness helped transform modern art. Weld tells many intriguing stories: how Guggenheim walked out on her first husband, leaving behind a note (``Life too hellish''); how she helped underwrite Emma Goldman's autobiography; her husband-to-be Max Ernst's close brush with the Nazis. This candid, engrossing biography is also a dynamic cultural history, for Guggenheim's life intersected with many creative personalitiesBeckett, Joyce, Arp, Cocteau, Duchamp, Ray, Breton, Picabia, Cage. Photos. February 17
Based on lengthy interviews with Peggy Guggenheim, her relatives, friends, and associates, this portrait reveals a woman of contradictions: scandalous yet shy, witty and intelligent but considered stupid and not taken seriously by acquaintances. Weld also creates a vivid picture of the bohemian life of the artistic and literary intelligentsia that surrounded Peggy, although the recitation of everyone's sexual escapades becomes a bit tedious. From a troubled life emerges a major proponent and collector of modern art. Because countless artists and writers played a part in Peggy's life, readers should have some prior familiarity with them. Though truth and legend seem blurred at times, this book nonetheless makes an interesting companion to Peggy's own memoirs, Confessions of an Art Addict and Out of This Century . Lynell A. Morr, John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art Lib., Sarasota, Fla.