The life story of the bohemian socialite who rebelled against her famous family and became a renowned art collector.
Peggy Guggenheim was the ultimate self-invented woman, a cultural mover and shaker who broke away from her poor-little-rich-girl origins to shape a life for herself as the enfant terrible of the art world. Her visionary Art of This Century gallery in New York, which brought together the European surrealist artists with the American abstract expressionists, was an epoch-shaking “happening” at the center of its time.
In Mistress of Modernism, Mary V. Dearborn draws upon her unprecedented access to the Guggenheim family, friends, and papers to craft a “thorough biography . . . [that] will appeal to art lovers interested in more than the paint” (Publishers Weekly). “With drive and clarity, Dearborn charts Guggenheim’s peripatetic life,” offering rich insight into Peggy’s traumatic childhood in German-Jewish “Our Crowd” New York, her self-education in the ways of art and artists, her caustic battles with other art-collecting Guggenheims, and her legendary sexual appetites (her lovers included Max Ernst, Samuel Beckett, and Marcel Duchamp, to name just a few) (Booklist). Here too is a poignant portrait of Peggy’s last years as l’ultima dogaressa—the last (female) doge—in her palazzo in Venice, where her collection still draws thousands of visitors every year.
Mistress of Modernism is the first definitive biography of Peggy Guggenheim, whose wit, passion, and provocative legacy Dearborn brings compellingly to life.
Mary V. Dearborn is the author of Mailer: A Biography, as well as biographies of Henry Miller, John Dewey, Anzia Yezierska, and Louise Bryant. Dearborn holds a doctorate in English and comparative literature from Columbia University, where she was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. She lives in New York.