From Publishers Weekly
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.
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How few of America's major museums would exist without the passion and zeal of art collectors and the dealers who advised them, and yet, how rarely their fascinating stories are told. Bohemian art impresario and collector Peggy Guggenheim has often been trivialized. Anton Gill's Art Lover (2002) offers a more balanced view, and now Dearborn presents a freshly judicious, multidimensional, and sympathetic portrait laced with new and revelatory documentation. With drive and clarity, Dearborn charts Guggenheim's peripatetic life in France and England during the heady 1920s and 1930s; her traumatic relationships with unstable, even violent men; and the crystallization of her mission to support avant-garde art. After helping artists escape the Nazis at great personal risk, Guggenheim opened her innovative New York gallery, where she was the first to exhibit such seminal modern artists as de Chirico, Giacometti, Pollock, and Rothko. Dearborn thoroughly analyzes Guggenheim's flaws--her low self-esteem, abysmal failure as a mother, and lack of intellectual rigor (although Dearborn herself is shaky on aesthetics)--yet vehemently defends Guggenheim against the vociferous, clearly misogynistic criticism of her free-spirited ways. Ultimately, Guggenheim comes into focus as a beleaguered champion not only for avant-garde artists but also for sexual equality and freedom of expression in all aspects of life. Donna Seaman
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