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Mistress of Modernism
Cover of Mistress of Modernism
Mistress of Modernism
The Life of Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim emerges in Mistress of Modernism as 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. Peggy's 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.

Dearborn's unprecedented access to the Guggenheim family, friends, and papers contributes rich insight to 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 a mere few. Here too is a poignant portrait of Peggy's last years as l'ultima dogaressa — the last duchess — in her palazzo in Venice, where her collection still draws thousands of visitors every year.

Mistress of Modernism is the first definitive biography of a woman whose wit, passion, and provocative legacy come compellingly to life.

Peggy Guggenheim emerges in Mistress of Modernism as 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. Peggy's 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.

Dearborn's unprecedented access to the Guggenheim family, friends, and papers contributes rich insight to 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 a mere few. Here too is a poignant portrait of Peggy's last years as l'ultima dogaressa — the last duchess — in her palazzo in Venice, where her collection still draws thousands of visitors every year.

Mistress of Modernism is the first definitive biography of a woman whose wit, passion, and provocative legacy come compellingly to life.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 9, 2004
    Dearborn celebrates Guggenheim, the iconoclastic doyenne of abstract expressionism, in this appreciative, thorough biography. Born in 1898 to a "poor" branch of the family, Guggenheim moved to Europe in 1920, where she befriended such modernist notables as Djuna Barnes and Marcel Duchamp. After two failed marriages (to alcoholic, volatile writers), Guggenheim began to collect surrealist and other modern art seriously, opening the Guggenheim Jeune in London in 1938. During WWII, she preserved numerous artworks—and artists—by getting them to the U.S.; she also began a long, turbulent relationship with Max Ernst. In wartime New York, Guggenheim opened Art of This Century; the explosively popular gallery brought fame to Jackson Pollock, Joseph Cornell and others. Dearborn, who has authored biographies of Norman Mailer and Henry Miller, underscores Guggenheim's professional achievements, but salacious details and physical descriptions—of her infamous nose, her delicate ankles—sometimes win out over character analysis and art history. Although Dearborn seems to rely a good deal on Guggenheim's sensational 1946 autobiography, Out of This Century
    , which publicized her artists and myriad lovers alike, her research and interviews with family and friends add rich, gossipy detail about the heiress's life. With its fluid prose and provocative subject, this book will appeal to art lovers interested in more than the paint. B&w photos not seen by PW
    . Agent, Georges Borchardt
    .

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2004
    After Mailer and Miller, why not take on cultural doyenne Guggenheim?

    Copyright 2004 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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