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Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim
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Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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 abstr ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 15th 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2004)
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Peggy Guggenheim was born in 1898 and died 81 years later, in 1979. She was born into the rich Guggenheim family although she was one of the 'poor' Guggenheims. She didn't want the traditional life of a Jewish girl in New York so she strived hard to find her place in life. She became an avid art collector, especially abstract and Surrealist art. She lived among the artists, payed artists regularly to help them, had various galleries where she showed her collection and also other works - among th ...more
Christianne Hedtke
This is one of three bios on Peggy Guggenheim and it is the shortest, most vague, and doesn't spend much time creating atmosphere and placing her life in the context of history. It also tends to look at her actions through rose-colored glasses when in fact some of her less savory characteristics are the most fun to read about, and also probably a more honest depiction of a very dynamic woman. If you want the real deal read Peggy: The Wayward Guggenheim by Jacqueline Bograd Weld.
Bella George
Finally finished!!!! This author makes the life story of a very interesting person so boring!!! I finished it as I was interested in Peggy Guggenheim, but this author just was not creative at all in making it easy to read!! It was tough going!
Andrea Stoeckel
Dearborn's bio of Peggy Guggenheim is also a biography of the times she lived in. A thoroughly modern woman, she championed causes that in some ways made the rest of her family just about disown her. But with her help, many important artists survived WW2 and she helped build on themes of modernist painting and sculpture as she promotedand protected people like ManRay, Rodin, Jackson Pollock, Emma Golwin, Andy Warhol and even Phillip Glass and up to Yoko Ono. Many of her collection are now in the ...more
A thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written biography of a powerful and controversial woman, Dearborn's volume on Peggy Guggenheim is a good read. I was primarily interested in the second half of her life when she embarked on her collecting and gallery-managing endeavors, so the first half of the book was a little tedious. Still, definitely worth it for the fascinating view into the lives of various important figures of 1920s-50s culture, and the shaping of modern art institutions. I'm also ...more
I learned so much about the various artists Peggy Guggenheim touched throughout her life. It was a fascinating way to increase my Modern Art knowledge. I truly enjoyed it because I recently taught an ArtLit course on Frank Lloyd Wright. I gained some special knowledge about the building of the Guggenheim Museum and was able to share it with the students. There were so many interesting background stories on her friends, lovers, husbands and artists - it kept my interest to the appendix! If you ha ...more
Carol Hatley
This book was a huge disappointment - mostly a lot of name-dropping and a litany of Peggy Guggenheim's many romantic entanglements. I might have enjoyed it more if I had more of an interest in the history of modern art.
Elena Victoria
I felt that Dearborn's handling of Peggy's personal life was a little too melodramatic. She definitely played up the Perpetually-Wayward-Girl-Child angle a bit and dismissed a lot of her actions/relationships as just being a product of daddy issues. But, it was a fun read. And I did learn a few interesting things about the artists that she worked with that I didn't know before (although, I'm kind of upset that she was so dismissive of Lee Krasner...although, lets be serious, everyone was). Disap ...more
Well-written biography of the woman who championed abstract expressionism, in particular Jackson Pollock, and collected the works of many modern artists before they were well-known. Her personal life was always in an uproar, but her canny acquisitions affected the entire course of art history in the 20th century. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Guggenheim in Venice, *go*--it's her legacy to Venice and the world.
I read Art Lover about Peggy Guggenheim but not listed in Goodreads records. I am sure they are similar. Peggy G was a fascinating person. She met every modern artist (and slept with many of them) and eventually had an amazing collection. Much of it is still on view in her museum in Venice. She lived a charmed but sometimes lonely life of excess and power in the art world. LOVED IT!
Jul 28, 2011 Hannah added it
I wasn't sure that this was going to keep me engaged all the way through but it was interesting to read about the life and works of the Modernists and Surrealists. Although Guggenheim is interesting to a point because of her key role as investor, buyer and promoter of so many famous artists, it's the promiscuous and incestuous lives of these people that keep you reading.
I liked everything about this book. Mary Dearborn's writing style, the story she told, the pacing, the "character" that Peggy Guggenheim represented. I loved this book, hope that more of my friends read it some day so that I can actually discuss it with others.

I think this would be a great book club selection if you're into well-written, interesting biographies.
Nov 25, 2007 Pat rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
This is an interesting book. I wanted to read it because I have been to the Guggenheim Museum in Venice which is the final rsting place of Peggy Guggenheim's collection of modern art. However, that was just the last place for the collection. She was an interesting person though not someone that I think I would have liked very much.
Really full of information on Peggy Guggenheim and how she began collecting. I think perceptions of her are formed by her later years, but who she ran with and how she became determined to be "independent" and find her direction was very interesting.
Peggy Guggenheim is fascinating, truly, and you'll be into this book if you're interested in subversive behavior, Modernism, artists, and/or writers. I was inspired to read this after going to the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice (love!).
Heidi Thorsen
I probably got over halfway through, but then lost interest. I've learned enough about Peggy Guggenheim that I don't feel compelled to finish the book.
Shilpa Mankikar
Very interesting, full of drama, story of Guggenheim art legacy & saving artists from WW2 Europe, but very dense and long, didn't get thru all of it.
Jenna Eve Rieker
Highly recommended. Peggy is awesome, her collection is amazing, and learning about her misfortunes, romances, and private life gave me more respect for her.
Fabulously scandalous. An easy read giving a rich insight into the transformation of the modern art world through the eyes of Peggy Guggenheim.
Not as good as "art lover" but still enjoyed it. It's good if you want to overload yourself with history of Peggy Guggenheim.
I found this to be so wonderfully entertaining and full of life. She was an enormously interesting women.
Whitney Woodward
I had already read "Out of This Century," which I loved, so this was far more dry, but still interesting.
Michelle Bucci
After 3 months it was a very detailed, interesting book/
Sep 09, 2010 Tracy added it
Slow but interesting.
Interesting to learn about how Peggy Guggenheim broke free of her family's traditional expectations and pursued a lifelong role supporting new art and artists in the US and Europe. The pace is rather breathless with event following event, but I appreciate Dearborn's discipline in limiting her analysis. Guggenheim was a flawed and complicated person but it is helpful to consider her in the context of her own time, she really forged new territory as a woman and as a patron of the arts.
Ryan Elizabeth
Ryan Elizabeth marked it as to-read
May 03, 2015
Annaj is currently reading it
Apr 29, 2015
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