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Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim
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Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  490 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Peggy Guggenheim -- millionairess, legendary lover, sadomasochist, appalling parent, selective miser -- was one of the greatest and most notorious art patrons of the twentieth century.

After her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the Titanic, the young heiress came into a small fortune and left for Europe. She married the writer Laurence Vail and joined the America
Paperback, 528 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published October 15th 2001)
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Sep 13, 2013 James rated it really liked it
What can I say. Peggy Guggenheim is one of the most fascinating, driven, entertaining, annoying, dysfunctional, delightful, frustrating, self-centered, philanthropic women I have ever encountered in a biography. Her friends, acquaintances, lovers and enemies find heaps of reasons to love her and hate her. Gill covers a lot of ground in these 480 pages, drawing on Peggy's own memoir, other bios of her, countless other books and interviews to present Peggy's 80-year life. (I had the good fortune t ...more
Apr 27, 2011 Christine rated it it was amazing
Reading about Peggy's life and her artist friends was facinating, make sure to pick up a companion art book so you can look up the artwork as you read the book ( a tip from a friend)
Lee Kofman
Aug 12, 2016 Lee Kofman rated it really liked it
Loved, but in an excruciating way, this biography. This book arose all my feminist instincts. The poor woman’s fault was she wasn’t attractive enough, but she was rich and therefore used and abused by all those men, all her lovers. And yet she didn’t resent them enough in my view and kept supporting some of them. Oh… I often gritted my teeth (almost literally) as I kept reading this biography. In artistic and intellectual terms, this is an erudite book. I love the comprehensiveness of context it ...more
Sep 26, 2007 Cristina rated it really liked it
I have no idea why, but I am totally obsessed with Peggy Guggenheim. I love when crazy people are brilliant (and I can't get enough of her life in venice). I read way too many Peggy biographies after we got back from venice and this is my favorite. It relies heavily on Peggy's biography (including what was added and deleted through the various publishings) as well as other perspectives that frequently completely counter what she believes to have been true in her life. While my other historical w ...more
Sally Armitage
Mar 31, 2014 Sally Armitage rated it did not like it
P Guggenheim had such a fascinating life that it s tempting to over rate this book.
The whole thing deserves to be rewritten to take out to and fros which are hard to follow, irrelevant stuff and just basically to get the thing back into swing.
Jan 12, 2017 Robinhughes rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Just started reading this for a second time and realized I should list it.
If you would like an introduction to many European artists (1920's onward), a glimpse into their lives and works, a snapshot of the historical background within which they existed and the story of one of the great families of America, this book is for you. For me it was a great introduction to the modernist movement as well.
Christina Boyle
Jan 25, 2015 Christina Boyle rated it liked it
Who doesn't identify with a rebel and a flawed one at that. This book offers incredible detail - so much so it almost hurts your head - on Peggy Guggenheim's domestic affairs including a dizzying array of lovers but also her influences - people, places and things that provided the medium for her self-appointed art collecting career.

To find oneself in mid-40s with many of the boxes checked for key milestones in the human experience (acquisition of marriage, kids, property, mid-career success and
Lacy Broemel
Mar 01, 2016 Lacy Broemel rated it it was amazing
I became fascinated with Peggy Guggenheim when I went to Venice and first saw her collection at the Peggy Guggenheim museum (and her former home). I was throughly entertained and intrigued by the life she had built for herself. This biography was a delight and explored all the nuances of Peggy's life- she was vivacious, resentful, creative, dependent, bold, fragile, and definitely wild.

Her life spanned some of the most trying and dark times in American history- the sinking of the Titanic, WWI,
Sep 13, 2009 Pollopicu rated it it was amazing
My favorite Art biography/memoir. I loved this book so much that it's hard for me to write a review on it.
I feel guilty that I'm able to write lengthy reviews on other less deserving books and not on this, my most treasured one. I read this about 3 years ago, back then I wasn't a member of goodreads. It's hard for me to write in-depth reviews on books I've read in the past. Most of the reviews I have written here are books I've read as a current member, so it's been easy to freshly recall the de
Mar 02, 2015 emma rated it it was amazing
I have to confess to knowing next to nothing about modern art, and only slightly more about art in general, but I loved this book. It pulled me in right from the start, and kept me till the very the end. I bought it in preparation for a trip to Venice, but I think it'll resonate for much longer than that; I'm already starting to explore different art movements and artists that were only words and names to me until a few days ago. Peggy Guggenheim had a fascinating life, from her childhood in New ...more
Deborah Klein
Feb 04, 2015 Deborah Klein rated it liked it
I bought this book when I was in Venice and had visited the Guggenheim house. Having been there really increased my enjoyment of the book. Peggy Guggenheim was a "poor little rich", altho' not all that rich,who amassed a world class collection of contemporary art and apparently slept with everyone, male or female in the arts world of the 30's, 40's and 50's. The stories are fascinating, the descriptions of various art characters of the time are compelling, and the discussions of the art are inte ...more
Amy Talluto
Jul 19, 2013 Amy Talluto rated it liked it
This was a good solid biography...but the book is long and especially dragged a bit in the last sections (perhaps because her life slowed down as well). The author doesn't pull any punches and shines a blazing spotlight on Guggenheim's flaws, bad relationships and poor decision-making and parenting. On one hand, this makes for juicy reading at times, but then the flip side is that also makes her a less sympathetic character. I ultimately didn't end up caring that much about her and so my heart w ...more
Kirsten (
Jul 20, 2011 Kirsten ( rated it really liked it
fascinating but dense - not exactly a quick read. but i enjoyed taking the time to look up specific works when mentioned as well as the artists in her circle. was familiar with perhaps 50 percent of the surrealists and abstract artists mentioned so i enjoyed delving deeper there. PG was not the most immediately likable "character" but i admire those who undertake an unconventional life and LIVE so "fully" and fearlessly. i am always interested in bohemian art/lit circles and this satisfies in th ...more
Jennifer Haight
May 26, 2016 Jennifer Haight rated it liked it
Some favorite moments / lines from the book:

"With each the absence of love I'd different.
With each the absence of love is the same."

On page 227 I was introduced to the story of Mariam de Rothschild and her massive buried art collection which was lost forever.

The sadness in this phrase: "Although she slept with many men, she was attractive to, and seriously attracted by very few."

On Peggy's autobiography: "Her book is entertaining and lively: It is also a clear map of a confused psyche, where br
Jun 09, 2016 Keely rated it liked it
Lots of info about the key figures in the art scene of the time but dry and marred slightly by the author's frequent and rather obvious contempt for his subject. The author redeems this by including the exchange of letters between Peggy and her uncle's mistress, the Baroness Rebay. Peggy's own book reproduces only the Baroness' nasty letter to her and doesn't inculde her own retort to the baroness, which Mr. Gill includes. It is priceless - almost could be used to sum up Peggy's entire personali ...more
Nov 05, 2011 Sara rated it liked it
I enjoyed this biography but I didn't love it. To have loved it I wish it had had more pictures of works from her collection and more information about the artists she mixed and mingled with from the cubist, surrealist, and abstract expressionist schools and less about how much she hated her nose. Some of the best passages in the book were those that Gill lifted from Peggy's autobiography and it left me thinking that I should have just read that instead.
Nicole Ritz
Feb 25, 2014 Nicole Ritz rated it liked it
This was a difficult read in places,somewhat clunky and ponderous. It includes interesting detail about several artists including Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Jackson Pollock. In many ways she led an enviable life -- independently wealthy, fabulous friends, endless travel -- but who would want to trade places with her? So much turmoil. She ended up alone and sad. Of course, all biographies have unhappy endings ...more
Jul 05, 2010 JoAnne rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, art
What a woman! What a life! What a nut job.... Loved every minute of this book. Living Peggy's life vicariously through Gill's easy to read narrative, it was one hell of a joy ride. I recommend this to anyone who is an art lover, or anyone interested in reading about wacky, sex-obsessed, spoiled rich broads who turn into eccentric cold-hearted, dog-loving, lonely old hags. Having said that, what would the modern art world have done without her!!?
Jan 07, 2015 Lynda rated it liked it
I liked this book but not nearly as much as “Empty Mansions.” Peggy Guggenheim was a very different individual and seems quite a character. She had the advantage of wealth that allowed her to be self-indulgent. She met (and slept with) many people because of who she was, where others less fortunate would have been outcast. The book seems thorough, but also thick and convoluted in parts. It definitely takes awhile to read but I found myself going to back to it without difficulty.
Aug 29, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
If you have an appreciation of art (even if it's not for the Surrealist movement), this is a great read. Very informative and full of references to writers and artists of the early 20th century. Well researched.

Imo, although Ms. Guggenheim lived a personal life most people probably wouldn't wish on anyone, her collection is a tribute and an inspiration to all who appreciate art. I think even today if she were here, something she could be proud of.
Jun 22, 2016 Barbara rated it liked it
There was so much of Peggy's love life I found myself plowing through the first part. Much improved starting with WWII and around 1942. That chapter was about how those who ran from Europe found themselves rather lost in New York where The American artists were younger and didn't follow the Surrealism of those older painters. It was the start of the new period of Abstract Expressionism.
Oct 27, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. She was a fascinating person from a dysfunctional family who herself was very quirky and a very poor mother to her two children. She loved on a fascinating time and hung out with an amazing number of focus artist is of the period. I don't think I would have liked her. I do, however, want to see her collection in Venice some time.
Janet Charles
May 04, 2009 Janet Charles rated it it was amazing
Anton Gill is an amazing biographer and speaker. I saw him at the Shakespeare and Co Literary Festival and had to buy his book. In Art Lover, he not only describes Peggy Guggenheim's life but Europe and the U.S. in the 20th century.
Jul 23, 2007 Magid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rich art addicts
This book was really good. Well researched and gripping, Gill doesn't try to make you fall in love with Peggy, but rather leaves one with the impression of a really quite grotesque character who pushed her way through life and survived by sheer force of will. Fascinating.
Dec 26, 2007 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, biography
What a character! The art world would not be what it is today had it not been for Peggy Guggenheim's craziness, obstinance, cunning, stinginess...and a great eye for art ahead of its time. Fascinating read.
Sep 20, 2007 Sally rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: art lovers
I love to read about artists and the art world. I love to watch movies about artists, too. This one follows the life of Peggy Guggenheim and the amazing contribution she made to the art world through her vast art collection. She was a wild woman and I liked her crazy sunglasses!
Aug 19, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought I knew a fair amount about Peggy despite the modernity. As it turns out, I knew nothing at all. I don't even like biographies, but this one is a keeper.
Leah U
That was some mighty poor writing. It almost takes effort to make a book about such an interesting person so boring.
Mar 12, 2016 Charlotte rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I couldn't finish it - this was awfully written and could have done with a might big edit, which is such a shame because of the subject at hand.
Sandra S.
Apr 17, 2011 Sandra S. rated it liked it
Well written about a fascinating woman but towards the end I wanted to escape from her and be finished with the book. Her own self torment was too much.
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Anton Gill worked for the English Stage Company, the Arts Council of Great Britain, and the BBC before becoming a full-time writer in 1984. He has written more than twenty books, mainly in the field of contemporary history.

aka Oliver Bowden
More about Anton Gill...

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