The Life of Peggy Guggenheim
Marguerite ”Peggy” Guggenheim was born in New York in 1898 to a Jewish family. Her biographer Jacqueline Bograd Weld said that it wasn’t just Marguerite who was fascinating as a subject, but that her entire family was full of wonderful eccentricities. Her mother Florette Seligman who came from a family of bankers was known to repeat everything three times, while one of her aunts used to sing most of what she said, possibly leading her husband to an early death. Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim was member of the prominent mining family. They had two more daughters – Hazel and Benita, who were Peggy’s only companions in her childhood and who both lost their lives tragically as young women. The family enjoyed the wealth and comforts of high society. For Peggy, those early years of bourgeois lifestyle were insufferably boring. When her father died on the RMS Titanic she was 13 years old and her family fortune was already decimated. At the age of 19 she inherited her father’s money. She called herself a poor Guggenheim, which was true only in a sense that her inherited wealth was considerably less than that of her cousins. This was just one more thing setting her apart from what she knew. Peggy craved adventure, fulfillment and recognition. Rebelling against aristocratic lifestyle and future as some rich guy’s wife, she found a job in the avant-garde bookshop The Sunrise Turn, where she was exposed to artist and radical thinkers. A year later, in 1921, she moved to Paris, to a city that was giving birth to an art revolution. She marveled at the bohemian world, sharing it intimately with women and men like Kiki de Montparnasse, Man Ray, James Joyce and Ezra Pond. It was in Paris where her love for sex and art was fully awakened.
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