Famous Females: Peggy Guggenheim

A series on important women in the arts

In a field that has long been dominated by men, there is a significant history of women who have collected art, influenced the art market, and were instrumental in shaping what we view in museums and learn about in art history books.

Peggy Guggenheim, Paris, c.1930, photograph Rogi André (Rosza Klein). In the background,  Notre Dame de Paris , and on the right,  Dutch Interior II  (1928) by  Joan Miró  (via Wikipedia)

Peggy Guggenheim, Paris, c.1930, photograph Rogi André (Rosza Klein). In the background, Notre Dame de Paris, and on the right, Dutch Interior II (1928) by Joan Miró (via Wikipedia)

Collecting art has often required significant economic power. Indeed, many of these women benefitted from exceptional generational wealth. However, a few, like Dorothy Vogel, were able to build their collection without an inheritance or family money. While some collected Old Masters, others supported avant-garde artists of their time, who would later become household names in the art historical canon.

In this series, we'll take a brief look at some of the women who helped shape art history through collecting, commissioning, and supporting artists. We’ve already looked at Isabella Stewart Gardner. Next, we learn about Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1975)

Perhaps one of the most well-known names in the world of art collecting, Guggenheim’s collecting pursuits had a significant impact on modern art. A rebel and instigator, Guggenheim is known for not conforming to societal expectations. In her early 20s, she moved to Paris, where she met and befriended many artists she would subsequently collect and who have become some of the most famous in art history, including Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí. She later collected American artists including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. She opened a gallery, Art of This Century, in New York during the war years, and in 1943 held an exhibition titled, “Exhibition by 31 Women,” the first exhibition of its kind to show art by modern women artists. Her villa in Venice, Italy houses the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and is open to the public.

Recommended viewing: Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, a 2015 documentary by Lisa Immordino Vreeland

Cassandra Fiorenza