By boat (of course) to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. On the way passed the Rialto Bridge. Perhaps you remember it mentioned in The Merchant of Venice. If you haven’t seen that play of Shakespeare’s, see the 2004 movie with Al Pacino as Shylock. He’s great!
Now, what news on the Rialto?
Why, yet it lives there uncheck’d that Antonio hath a ship of rich lading wrecked on the narrow seas…
As our three boatloads coalesced at the museum we gathered around The Angel of the City by Marino Marini. The penis is detachable, probably because extremities are hard to cast, but it was stolen! The present one is a replacement.
The evolution of the subject of the horse and rider reflects Marini’s personal response to that changing context. The theme first appears in his work in 1936, when the proportions of horse and rider are relatively slender and both figures are poised, formal, and calm. By the following year the horse rears and the rider gestures. In 1940 the forms become simplified and more archaic in spirit, and the proportions become squatter. By the late 1940s the horse is planted immobile with its neck extended, strained, ears pinned back, and mouth open, as in the present example, which conveys the qualities characteristic of this period of Marini’s work—affirmation and charged strength associated explicitly with sexual potency. Later, the rider becomes increasingly oblivious of his mount, involved in his own visions or anxieties. Eventually he was to topple from the horse as it fell to the ground in an apocalyptic image of lost control, paralleling Marini’s feelings of despair and uncertainty about the future of the world.
A pleasant lunch at the Museum. After that we walked about the gardens until the lecture started. The jasmine was in bloom. I overheard someone say, I wish I could capture this scent. That would have been great for this blog!
Here a bronze by Barbara Hepworth, Single Form. Next, Incomplete Open Cube, painted aluminum, one of Sol LeWitt’s many. Anthony Caro’s Hinge, steel and aluminum painted red, and his LAL, steel painted blue. Would be happy with any of them in my garden. (And wouldn’t mind the gardeners to tend it!) Anish Kapoor’s Untitled, black granite. It’s nice, but I love his “Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. H’om, the white marble sculpture by Barry Flanagan.
H’om consists of two blocks of smooth white Carrara marble that appear to have been rendered pliable – kneaded, twisted, and molded with gargantuan hands. In 1982 Flanagan noticed two stone sea-horses placed on the Grand Canal terrace of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. These are now located on the roof terrace. Flanagan’s creatures are interpretations of, or ‘homages’ to, these seahorses, with their equine upper torsos and coiled fishtails.
A lecture in the gardens about Peggy. She was born in 1898 to wealthy patents, Florette, of the wealthy banking Seligmann family, and Benjamin Guggenheim, whose family, by the end of World War I, controlled more than 80% of the world’s supply of silver, copper and lead. The Guggenheims were second generation German Jews who had emigrated in the 1870’s. She had two sisters, but her father was a playboy and the family was not a happy one.
Guggenheim maintained an apartment in Paris and invested in International Steam Pump, which built the elevators for the Eiffel Tower. After spending several years living in Paris, Benjamin had decided to return to New York. Unfortunately he booked passage on the ill-fated Titanic. In the movie, Titanic, Peggy’s father put his French mistress in a lifeboat, then went to his room and dressed for dinner, to go down like a gentleman.
But in 1919 Peggy considered herself an “impoverished” relative as her father’s fortune was not great. According to Wikipedia,
When she turned 21 in 1919, Peggy Guggenheim inherited $2.5 million, about $33.1 million in today’s currency. Guggenheim’s father … had not amassed the fortune of his siblings; therefore her inheritance was far less than the vast wealth of her cousins.
Poiret (called the King of Fashion for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s survey in 2007) introduced corset-free garments in 1906, the year before Picasso committed his decidedly uninhibited “Demoiselles d’Avignon” to canvas. But with his love of the exotic, his brilliant use of color and pattern, and his penchant for simplified, almost rudimentary form, Poiret most resembles Matisse.
In 1922 she married Laurence Vail, a writer with writer’s block who had been a war hero. Lawrence was older, erudite, Oxford educated. He was a painter and a writer, whose relationship with his sister Clothilde would raise eyebrows and cause problems in his marriage. They were together for seven years and had two children, Sindbad and Pegeen, the painter.
Laurence Vail was born in Paris to American parents. His father was also a painter. Having initially studied in France, Laurence moved to England to study literature at Oxford University. Upon his return to Paris, he devoted himself to writing plays and essays, translating books from French, painting, sculpting, and creating collages. In the late 1920s he was named the ‘king of bohemians,’ associating with writers and artists including Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.
She then moved to England and took a lover, writer John Holmes, but he died on an operating table, while having surgery on his wrist.
Samuel Becket (with whom she had a brief but intense affair) convinced her to get into contemporary art and in 1938 Peggy opened an art gallery in London, the Guggenheim Jeune, as her uncle, Solomon Guggenheim, had already opened a gallery in New York (and Frank Lloyd Wright was to design his museum in 1943). Marcel Duchamp taught her about contemporary art and styles, and he conceived several exhibitions for her gallery.
Her gallery was losing money so she closed it and decided to open a museum. English art historian and art critic Herbert Read made her a list of paintings to buy for the museum, and she left for Paris in 1939.
She “decided now to buy paintings by all the painters who were on Herbert Read’s list. I put myself on a regime to buy one picture a day.”
Peggy was acquiring art when the Nazis occupied France in 1941, so she fled to Lisbon, then New York, with her paintings packed as household goods (ten Picassos, forty Ernsts, eight Mirós, four Magrittes, three Man Rays, three Dalís, one Klee, one Wolfgang Paalen and one Chagall among others), together with Max Ernst, who became her second husband.
In 1942 she opened her museum/gallery Art of This Century. In 1948 she was invited to exhibit her collection at the Venice Biennale, then purchased the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which had the longest façade on the canal. (Photos from the internet; check out the lion heads.)
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the Palace that Came from Lions, was probably begun in the 1750’s.
The winged Lion of St. Mark is still featured in the red-yellow flag of the city of Venice (which has six tails, one for each sestier of the city) and in the coat of arms of the city…
From 1951 Peggy opened her house and her collection to the public annually in the summer months.
Unfortunately, I have no indoor photos except for the last room. We were told not to take photos, so I didn’t but some of our group hadn’t heard and no one stopped them. Didn’t notice until the last room. (If any of you would like to email me some of their photos I could add them to the blog. Thanks.) So these from the museum’s website, which has lots of info! http://www.guggenheim-venice.it/inglese/museum/index.html
In the entry a Henry Moore (not sure if Reclining Figure is the right one, she purchased five of his), a Calder Mobile (not sure about Arc of Petals either – she bought three), Picasso’s On the Beach.
In the dining room Nude Study, Sad Young Man on a Train by Marcel Duchamp, Picasso’s The Poet, Albert Gleizes’ Woman with Animals (Madame Raymond Duchamp Villon), Jean Metzinger’s At the Cycle-Race Track, Louis Marcoussis’ The Regular. (It’s easy to find the painting if there’s only one by that artist, or if I wrote down the title.)
Alexander Archipenko’s sculpture, The Boxer, Reliquary Figure from Gabon, Seated Figure, Mali, Dogon, Study of a Nude (is this the correct Fernand Léger?), Constantin Brancusi’s Maiastra, in polished brass, Georges Braque’s The Clarinet.
There is no longer single point perspective. Following the Picasso-Braque Early Cubism style (which was more lyrical) were the Salon Cubists, Fauconnier , Metzinger, Gleizes, Léger, Delaunay, Gris, Duchamp, Duchamp-Villon. The African pieces are included in this room because they influenced Picasso and others.
In what used to be the kitchen, Abstract v. Surrealism. Vasily Kandinsky’s Landscape with Red Spots, Marc Chagall’s Rain. A painting by Giorgio de Chirico (a proto-surrealist) The Red Tower. André Breton wrote the Surrealist Manifesto.
In the drawing room, European Geometric Deconstruction.
Kandinsy’s Upward, Theo van Doesburg’s Counter Composition XIII. Piet Mondrian’s Composition No. 1 with Grey and Red. (I’m guessing on these three paintings.) Mondrian’s philosophy to sublimate the individual to the universal. Joan Miró’s Painting. (I especially love this one.)
In the library a Salvador Dalí (don’t recognize either in the catalogue), Brancusi’s iconic (sorry I had to use that word, but it seems to be de rigor in any discussion of art) Bird in Space. Max Ernst’s The Antipope. (He and Peggy were married at this time.)
When Peggy saw the small version (on cardboard, of this painting), she interpreted a dainty horse-human figure on the right as Ernst, who was being fondled by a woman she identified as herself, while Ernst conceded that a third figure, depicted in a three-quarter rear view, was her daughter Pegeen. When Ernst undertook this large version he changed the body of the “Peggy” figure into a greenish column and transferred her amorous gesture to a new character, who wears a pink tunic and is depicted in a relatively naturalistic way.
In the sitting room, another Caulder, Yellow Moon, a René Magritte, Empire of Light, which doesn’t look a bit surrealistic. I’ve always liked his work, particularly The blank signature, with a woman riding through a forest. Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture, Woman with Her Throat Cut (kinda creepy subject matter).
In a group of works made between 1930 and 1933, Alberto Giacometti used the Surrealist techniques of shocking juxtaposition and the distortion and displacement of anatomical parts to express the fears and urges of the subconscious. The aggressiveness with which the human figure is treated in these fantasies of brutal erotic assault graphically conveys their content. The female, seen in horror and longing as both victim and victimizer of male sexuality, is often a crustacean or insect-like form. Woman with Her Throat Cut is a particularly vicious image: the body is splayed open, disemboweled, arched in a paroxysm of sex and death. Body parts are translated into schematic abstract forms. The memory of violence is frozen in the rigidity of rigor mortis. The psychological torment and the sadistic misogyny projected by this sculpture are in startling contrast to the serenity of other contemporaneous pieces by Giacometti.
The expressionistic Seated Woman II can be seen as a final manifestation of Joan Miró’s ”peintures sauvages”, works characterized by violence of execution and imagery. It was painted at a time when Miró was responding acutely to the events of the Spanish Civil War. The human figure has been transmogrified here into a grotesque and bestial creature.
Burri, in the mid-1950s, began burning his mediums, a process he referred to as combustione. Through this destructive act, Burri drew attention to the process of creation as well as the materiality and transience of his mediums… Burri explained that he hoped to capture the image of fire.
I’ve lost track of what room we were in next, with abstract expression- ism. A Jackson Pollock – this one, Eyes in the Heat? Arshile Gorky’s Untitled. Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Red), and one of Willem de Kooning’s, but not sure which one, perhaps Nude Figure— Woman on the Beach?
Photo of Peggy with “everyone who mattered”, The Irascibles.
I am told I must read Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim by Mary V. Dearborn, but the library doesn’t have it. Does anyone have a copy that they can lend me? But this website is good too: http://scandalouswoman.blogspot.com/2009/06/art-lover-life-of-peggy-guggenheim.html
…covered all the floors and walls of the three-story Palazzo Grassi with a rug resembling an Oriental carpet. Manufactured in Germany, the rug covers a total of some 80,000 square feet. [That’s 50,000 square feet of floor and 30,000 square feet of wall.] The Italian-born artist used an enlarged and slightly out-of-focus photo of an antique Central Asian carpet as the basis for the weaving.
First, looking through many rooms of rugs, after that a photo of my favorite painting. Next a self-portrait that is 15’ high, but kinda hiding in a corner. He painted it from a photo, realistic down to the water spot on the original photo!
For the other paintings, lace is placed on the canvas, sprayed through, then removed. Here are a few details I took. In the second detail the fabric was wrinkled. In the third, the fabric was dropped in the process of being removed.
A portrait of his friend Franz West, who died last year, when he was quite young. After painting the photorealistic canvas he used it in his studio as a carpet! I think it rather disrespects his friend. Here’s a detail of the painting (can you believe it’s not a photo!?), with paint dripped on it.
Franz West, an influential Austrian sculptor with a penchant for art objects that were willfully unserious, nonideological and accessible and were displayed in Central Park and on the plaza at Lincoln Center, as well as in international exhibitions and blue-chip galleries around the world, died in Vienna. He was 65… His homely, rough-surfaced materials, like plaster or papier-mâché, sometimes doused with color, challenged accepted taste.
There are also paintings of photos of wooden sculptures from the 14th or 15th century. (No photos of these.) Carpet of a photo of a rug with a painting of a photo of a statue from the medieval era. And the building itself is pretty awesome. This photo in the stairwell.
Walked back to the hotel. A bunch of us stopped in Campo Santo Stefano for gelato. C. had a larger one than I did.