AUGUST 19, 2018
Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern (2015)
By Francine Prose, Yale University Press, 211 pp.
Best-selling author Francine Prose, known for nonfiction titles like Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and Reading Like a Writer, wrote a heartfelt biography of Peggy Guggenheim, influential art collector, and early promoter of Modernism in America. Well-ahead of her time, Peggy developed a taste for the avant-garde and unconventional that followed her throughout the entire life. She altered the course of art history in an unprecedented manner by meticulously pursuing new styles and supporting emerging artists.
Born in New York City in August 1898 to a wealthy family, Peggy Guggenheim developed an interest in art at an early age. Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, perished on the Titanic in 1912, leaving Peggy with a comfortable inheritance. Her mother Florette Seligman, who came from a prominent banking family, also left Peggy with a considerable inheritance, allowing for a sophisticated, privileged lifestyle.
“A Guggenheim, or a Strauss, or a Seligman was expected to be meticulously well mannered and to avoid anything that might be considered ostentatious or vulgar,” explains Francine Prose in her biography of Peggy Guggenheim (p. 37).
As a child, Peggy traveled frequently to Europe with her mother Florette where they stayed at stylish hotels, and learned about art, French history, British literature, and German opera, explains Prose.
In 1920 Peggy moved back to Europe, “in a frenzy to see great art.” “She knew where every important painting was located and insisted on seeing them all” (p. 60).
From 1922 to 1928 Peggy was married to Laurence Vail, a French-born American playwright, novelist, and painter who belonged to the Dada movement. Peggy’s life, relates Prose, had “periods of intense travel interrupted by interludes during which she established and oversaw large bohemian households in Paris, in London, and in rural beauty spots in England and France” (p. 17).
After her failed marriage with Vail, Peggy engaged in notorious affairs with playwright Samuel Beckett, sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and Surrealist painter Max Ernst, whom she married in 1941 – the marriage would end in divorce five years later.
Peggy’s uncle Solomon Guggenheim, who also was an avid collector of modern art, might have been an inspiration to Peggy: Solomon and his mistress, artist and art advisor Baroness Hilla von Rebay opened The Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York in 1937 to display Solomon’s growing collection which included works by Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso, and many others. As the collection kept growing, the effort eventually led to the opening of Guggenheim Museum in 1959 at its current location on Fifth Avenue in a building designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
While in Europe, Peggy opened Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London in 1938, an unfortunate time, as WWII was about to break out the following year. Peggy had traveled to Paris the year before to secure art for the opening show. She had hoped to open the gallery with an exhibition dedicated to Constantin Brancusi, but the Romanian sculptor was out of town at the time, and Peggy turned her attention to Jean Cocteau. Guggenheim Jeune opened in January 1938 with a show dedicated to Cocteau – the gallery would close in August 1939 due to the war outbreak. In fact, Peggy had plans to open an art museum in London in the fall of 1939, when the war broke, and she had to return to New York.
In June 1941 Peggy and her family sailed from Marseille to New York, bringing with them Peggy’s significant collection of modern art which included 150 works by artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Braque, Miro, Dali, Magritte, Giacometti, Brancusi, and Max Ernst, works that could have not safely remained in Europe. At first, Peggy had hoped that the Louvre Museum in Paris might have sheltered some of the works, but the museum directors considered the art “too modern to merit saving,” as Prose relates.
Back in New York, Peggy opened Art of This Century gallery, which shortly became the city’s cultural center. The gallery functioned from 1942 to 1947, when Peggy returned to Europe. Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackson Pollock frequented the space which was at once “a cultural landmark and a tourist attraction” (p. 137). Peggy helped launch Pollock’s career at Art of this Century – the artist showed four times at the gallery during its existence, and drew the attention of art critics such as Robert Coates at the New Yorker, and Clement Greenberg at The Nation.
In 1943 the gallery hosted the first exhibition of collages in the United States. Also, “among the most remarkable aspects of Art of This Century,” writes Prose, “was the unusual amount of attention paid to women artists” (p. 140). She goes on to say: “equally striking is how few of these women – Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, and Leonora Carrington – went on to develop careers and reputations remotely approaching those of their male contemporaries” (p. 141).
In addition to promoting emergent artists, as Prose relates, the gallery “was used as a background for fashion shoots in Vogue and Glamour, and was the subject of a photo feature in the New York Times Magazine” (p. 138).
In 1946, when Peggy was 48 years old, she published her memoir Out of This Century, which Prose calls “a remarkable document.” “It is hard to think of an important visual artist from the first half of the twentieth century who does not appear in its pages, in the company of an impressive number of celebrated novelists, memoirists, and poets” (p. 11). Several pages are dedicated to Peggy’s “battle to acquire Brancusi’s Bird in Space.”
In 1947 Peggy returned to Europe, and bought Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni in Venice. Her collection was swiftly included in the 24th Venice Biennale in 1948, one of the most prestigious art shows in the world. Afterwards, the collection traveled to Florence, Milan, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Zurich, before returning to Venice in 1951, and being permanently housed at Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni. Among luminaries spending time with Peggy while in Venice, Prose mentions Surrealist painter Marc Chagall, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and experimental composer John Cage.
In 1969 Guggenheim Museum in New York showed a large part of Peggy’s collection, which remains one of the most important in the world. To learn more about Peggy Guggenheim Collection, visit https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/site/peggy-guggenheim-collection.
Olana, home of 19th century landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church in Hudson, is hosting Artist on Art Tour, a series of guided tours through Olana under the tutelage of contemporary artists working in various disciplines. Artistic storytelling is a compelling part of Olana’s ongoing narrative. Participating artists offer a unique lens with which to “read” Olana, and experiment and invent with “poetic license” as they explore through their own artistic practice Church’s home and studio as well as this season’s exhibition.
This Friday, October 6 at 4:30 pm musician Carrie Bradley tours Olana, calling attention to the transitionary and the “in betweens,” with an element of live music inside Olana. Bradley combines text; music of which there is record that the Church family enjoyed by composers they hosted at Olana; and her own original songs to invoke specifically the evenings of music the Churches hosted at Olana and to refer in general to the sensual spirit of music and sound at the house. Bradley speculates that, “The house during those events became a place where the felt power of music resonated within a container for so much powerful visual art and artifact, and also was during those times, for a stolen moment, a public place when it was usually his private sanctuary. In a similar way, the songs seek to capture the interplay between the public and the private that I feel in the views from the upper reaches of the house—an intimate and personal seat from which to view the awe-inspiring reach of the river and the sky.”
Carrie Bradley is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer as well as a guitarist, violinist, and vocalist. She was a founding member of the alternative folk band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, has played with the Breeders since 1989, has since had her own bands 100 Watt Smile and the Great Auk, and has performed and/or recorded with Tanya Donelly, Jonathan Richman, John Wesley Harding, Love & Rockets, the Red House Painters, the Buckets, and many others. She lives, gardens, cavorts, and mulls deep in the Catskill Mountains.
This program expands on the ideas found on site in Teresita Fernandez’s installation “OVERLOOK: Teresita Fernández Confronts Frederic Church at Olana” throughout Olana State Historic Site (May 13 – November 1). The Olana Partnership’s Director of Education, Amy Hufnagel, describes the public program this way: “Artists and cultural workers can teach us about Olana in ways we might not have even imagined; they are, in so many ways, logical “guides” to understanding and unpacking Olana to the contemporary era. The Olana Partnership wants to expand the narrative of Olana, and to express a multiplicity of stories here. Teresita Fernandez’s installation and the exhibition – paired with local artist tours – allows for a whole new set of conversations to emerge.” This innovative tour program privileges the voices of contemporary women artists and cultural workers whose own creative pursuits often find voice in the sphere of the “overlooked.” In specific, Olana’s team works to elevating the voices of these contemporary women artists with the end goal to expand and enlarge the interpretation at Olana.
Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19th century. Church had a sustained interest in the Americas, resulting from his trips to Ecuador, Columbia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In his own artwork depicting these landscapes and in the objects he collected throughout his life, Church’s passion for Latin America remains evident today. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled 360-degree views of the Hudson River Valley and beyond. Today Olana State Historic Site welcomes more than 170,000 visitors annually.
To learn more about Artist on Art Tour event, visit http://www.olana.org/calendar/.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Catskill Interpretive Center
WRITERS IN THE MOUNTAINS (WIM)
ARTIST – WRITER TALK SERIES
MUTUAL MUSES IN THE CATSKILLS
“THE ARTS CONVERGE”
THE MAURICE D. HINCHEY CATSKILL INTERPRETIVE CENTER
MT. TREMPER, NY
SATURDAY, MAY 27 AT 1 P.M.
Art Writer Simona David in Conversation with Painters Margaret Leveson and Lisbeth Firmin, Printmaker and Ceramicist Peter Yamaoka, and Textile Artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes
Art writer Simona David will discuss her latest book, How Art Is Made: In the Catskills (2017), and share the stage with several acclaimed artists who live and work in the Catskill Mountains: painters Margaret Leveson and Lisbeth Firmin, ceramicist and printmaker Peter Yamaoka and textile artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes. How Art Is Made: In the Catskills pays homage to the place where American art was born through a series of conversations with creatives who live and work in the Catskills. Recent works will also be exhibited.
Artists featured in this book include sculptor Brian Tolle, known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Tolle’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December 2016.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 12 AT 1 P.M.
Poet Sharon Israel in Performance and Conversation with Composer Robert Cucinotta
Composer Robert Cucinotta and poet and soprano Sharon Israel will discuss their unique roles as each other’s muses. Cucinotta will play electronic works inspired by Israel’s poems, feature the poet’s voice, or both. Israel will read from her new chapbook Voice Lesson, including poems set to music by Cucinotta or inspired by his compositions.
Israel is the host of Planet Poet–Words in Space, an edition of The Writer’s Voice on WIOX 91.3 FM in Roxbury, NY. Her debut chapbook Voice Lesson was published by Post Traumatic Press earlier this year, and her work has appeared in Per Contra, SPANK the CARP, 5:2 Crime Poetry Weekly, Medical Literary Messenger, and Spry Literary Journal. In 2016, Israel appeared as a panelist at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem, MA.
Born in Brooklyn, Cucinotta studied composition and electronic music at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College with Jacob Druckman, Robert Starer and Charles Dodge. His work MASQUE: the Tempest was premiered at the 2015 Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice by mezzo-soprano Maria Todaro, bass Bradley Smoak and pianist Doug Martin. Recent recordings include Divertimento For Mr. Brooks (2013), Koool Kitchen (2013), Dracula: Harker’s Journal (2014) and Life On The Screen (2016).
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 AT 1 P.M.
Nature Writer Leslie T. Sharpe in Conversation with Photographer Rudd Hubbell
Photographer Rudd Hubbell, who’s been documenting the natural beauty of the Catskills since the 1970s, will be in conversation with nature writer Leslie T. Sharpe.
A descendent of the area’s first settlers, Hubbell has captured thousands of photographs of our spectacular wilderness. He enjoys looking closer than the broad view, and always tries to focus on the things most of us overlook or take for granted. “Every scene is constantly changing and transforming, and I strive to capture that,” Hubbell says.
Sharpe is a writer, editor and educator. A member of PEN American Center, she is the author of Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (Cambridge University Press, 1994), which is regarded as a “modern editing classic” and “On Writing Smart: Tips and Tidbits,” featured in The Business of Writing (Allworth, 2012). Her new book, The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills (The Overlook Press, 2017), is a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains. Sharpe will read from this work and discuss the genre of nature writing as it relates to the Catskills.
Writers in the Mountains is a 501 ( c ) (3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing. For more information, visit writersinthemountains.org.
The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center is a partnership between the Catskill Center and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, with generous financial support by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Catskill Watershed Corporation and generous staff and volunteer support from Catskill Mountainkeeper, Catskill Mountain Club, Catskill 3500 Club, and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. To learn more, visit catskillinterpretivecenter.org.
The Catskill Center has been promoting the Catskill Mountain Region through regional advocacy, environmental education, arts and culture programming, invasive species management, and land protection for over 45 years. The Center stimulates, conducts, and supports integrated actions to protect vital ecosystems and unique landscapes, to enhance economic opportunities for all the region’s residents, to preserve cultural and historic assets and to further a regional vision and spirit. For more information about the Catskill Center visit catskillcenter.org.
The University at Albany’s Art Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Museum opened in October 1967 with an exhibition titled Painting and Sculpture from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, which featured over fifty works by some of the most prominent artists of the 20th century: Picasso, Miro, Braque, Klee, de Kooning, and Calder, among others.
In 2015 the Museum hosted a retrospective show titled Bordering Utopia: Sculptures by Brian Tolle, dedicated to alumnus Brian Tolle, an internationally acclaimed sculptor known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Tolle’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December last year. He is one of the artists featured in our book How Art Is Made: In the Catskills.
To learn more about the University at Albany’s Art Museum, visit www.albany.edu.