One of America’s most famous families, the Guggenheim name is familiar to many. Marguerite ‘Peggy’ Guggenheim, the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, inherited her share of the family fortune at the age of 21 and became a prominent socialite and art collector. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice is one of the most important museums in Italy today for American and European modern art of the first half of the 20th century.
Peggy was always drawn to the bohemian art community and moved to Paris in the 1920s where she befriended writers and artists including Natalie Barney, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.
Just prior to World War 2, she opened a modern art gallery in London and began her collection. She held successful surrealism, sculpture and collage exhibitions in which she showcased numerous artists who would go on to become classics of the modern art movement. Peggy loaned her collection out to museums in the years that followed, before eventually donating it in its entirety, alongside her home, to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation – it is now one of Venice’s most visited attractions.
Peggy’s family were German Jews and her father died famously aboard the ill-fated Titanic. After his passing, his daughter deferred to her Jewish customs to observe a period of mourning. She recounted later that after his death, she faithfully attended services, recited kaddish and lunched on Sundays with the rabbi.