Guggenheim Founding Collection: cubist, abstract, Surrealist and symbolic art

 

On the eightieth anniversary of the establishment by Solomon R. Guggenheim of his Foundation in New York, the museum has mounted (winter and spring of 2017) an exhibition of a portion of the founding collection. 

 

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Untitled, gouache and pastel on paper, 1946.  Jackson Pollock, 1912-1956, American.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

The collection is comprised of the paintings Solomon R. Guggenheim bought starting in the late 1920s with the advice of the German immigrant artist, Hilla Rebay (1890-1967) who brought him news of the development of abstract (‘non-objective’) art in Europe.  By 1947, Solomon R. Guggenheim had bequeathed almost 600 paintings and sculptural works to this collection

of Hilla Rebay’s own bequest to the collection of her acquisitions

of some of the paintings amassed by Katharine Dreier, an artist, who, with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, established the Societe Anonyme in 1920 to present and collect new art;

of the acquisition of the estate of the German art dealer, an immigrant to New York from war in Europe,  Karl Nierendorf (1889-1947) who died unexpectedly young; 

of the bequest of a second German art dealer, also fleeing war in Europe,  Justin K. Thannhauser (1892-1976);

of the voracious acquisitions of Peggy  Guggenheim (1898-1979), a niece of Solomon Guggenheim.  Her collection normally resides in Venice.  Among her accomplishments was her financial and artistic support of Jackson Pollock who was working as a doorman at the Guggenheim collection until she freed him to paint; and a concentration in the work of Paul Klee and Kandinsky.

 

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Circumcision, oil on canvas, 1946.  Jackson Pollock,  1912-1956, American.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

The founding collection includes both abstract and representational art, painting and sculptures. 

Here is some of the abstract art.

 

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Personage (Autoportrait), 1943, gouache, ink, coloured paper and Japanese paper.  Robert Motherwell, 1915-1991. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

It is easy to forget how risk-taking this art was both for the artist and their collectors.

At the time that Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending the Staircase was alarming New York society in  the 1912 Armory show, and certainly even earlier, in 1904, to which year, I have traced the earliest work presented here (a Klee), there was no abstract art in North America and very little in the world.

 

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The Antipope, 1941-42, oil on canvas.  Max Ernst, 1891-1976, Swiss.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

These artists, many of whom were poor, had everything to lose by breaking existing artistic codes.   A break against which, from 1930 onwards, Guggenheim interest protected many of them and Guggenheim money insured some of them.

 

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The Kiss, 1927, oil on canvas.  Max Ernst, 1891-1976, Swiss. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

These artists vastly expanded the way we may accommodate ourselves to the world, to our lives in the world.

 

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Alchemy, 1947, oil, aluminum, alkyd enamel paint, with sand, pebbles, fibers and wood on commercially printed fabric.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

I have seen – and we all – art derived from this work which is imitative, wall-paperish, often lifeless.  Of no value except, in some cases, to the bank accounts of the artist and his or her circle.

 

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The Surrealist, 1947, oil on canvas.   Victor Brauner, 1903-1966, born Romania, died France.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

There is, on the other hand, nothing lifeless about this art. 

They are precise, clear, carefully wrought.  Some of the work has clear antecedents in the representation of reality.  Some of it, like Jackson Pollock, has fragmented these antecedents. 

Some of it is abstract in that it is based on mathematical calculations.  And some is abstract because the artist is representing things which we never see,  things which are ideas or the relationship between ideas, or is representing things which s/he has seen in a way so as to abstract the formal elements or emotional effect of these things.   

 

 

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Voice of Space (La Voix des airs), 1931, oil on canvas. Rene Magritte, 1898-1967, Belgian.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

The strength of the collection is its internal coherence.  It was amassed over a short period of time by a handful of people whose taste and understanding developed in their interactions with each other and with the artists.

It provides a concentrated view of how abstract art developed in its first four decades of its existence (outside of Russia).

 

 

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The Studio, oil and black crayon on canvas, 1928.  Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, born Spain, died France.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection,  Venice

 

To be with this collection was heartening. 

Here was a group of people, artists and patrons, progressives, as unlike each other as any group can be, who together built the intellectual, emotional and material structures which have allowed artists of all kinds to experiment in the graphic and sculptural arts from then to now virtually as they wished (the ‘market’ also weighs!).

Even more important, they blew open the ways we – ordinary mortals – can think and perceive and experience and express ourselves such as to increase human freedom. 

A priceless gift.

 

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Men in The City, 1919, oil on canvas.  Fernand Leger, 1881-1955, French.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

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Nude (Study) Sad Young Man on a Train, 1911-12, oil on cardboard mounted on Masonite.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

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Peggy Guggenheim in New York in 1942

 

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Woman with Animals (Madame Raymond Duchamp-Villon), oil on canvas, completed by 1914.  Albert Gleizes, 1881-1953.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

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Fugue Cascade, 1938, watercolour on paper.1938, watercolour and ink on paper.  Penrod Centurion, born 1905, Biesig, Germany, death date unknown

 

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Untitled, oil on canvas.  El Lissitzky,  1890-1941, Russian.  Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

 

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Untitled, 1942, oil on canvas.  Oskar Fischinger, 1900-1967.  Guggenheim, NY, Hilla Rebay Collection

 

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The Break of Day (L’Aurore), 1937, oil on canvas. Paul Delvore, 1897-1994, Belgian

 

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Composition, 1936, oil on canvas.  Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, born 1908 Lisbon, died 1992, Paris

 

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CPL4, oil and incised lines on Plexiglass in artist’s frame, 1941. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1895-1946, born Hungary, died USA.   On loan from the Hilla Rebay Foundation to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Composition No. 4, Lozenge with 4 lines,  1930, oil on canvas.  Piet Mondrian, 1872-1944, born Holland, died USA.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Hilla Rebay Collection

 

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Listening, 1920, oil on canvas.  Heinrich Campendonk, 1889-1957, born Germany, died Holland.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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The City, 1911, oil on canvas.  Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY

 

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s photograph of Solomon R. Guggenheim c. 1930

 

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Study for Portrait of Chess Players, 1911, ink and watercolour on paper.  Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, American born France.  Gift of the estate of Katherine Drier

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The Collections include a number of the works of Paul Klee, 1879-1940, Swiss, of which these are a few made between 1903 and 1932.  The artist used many media:  etching, watercolour, oil, chalk, gouache.

 

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The Red Bird, 1944, oil on canvas. Adolph Gottlieb, 1903-1974, American. Samuel R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Night Figure No. 1, watercolour, ink, gouache and graphite. William Baziotes, 1912-1963.  Samuel R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Polyphonic, 1945, oil on canvas.  Perle Fine, 1905-1988, American.  Samuel R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

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Penetrating (B), oil, casein and tempera on Masonite.  Josef Albers, 1888 Germany-1976 USA.  Samuel R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Bent Dark Gray, 1943, oil on Masonite.   Josef Albers, 1888 Germany-1976 USA.  Samuel R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

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Personage, 1925, oil on canvas.  Juan Miro, 1893-1983    Spanish.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

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Striped, 1934, oil with sand on canvas.  Vasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, born Russia, died France.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

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Knight Errant and detail, 1916, oil on canvas.  Oskar Kokoschka, 1886-1980, born Austo-Hungary, died Switzerland.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Invention (Composition No. 3), 1933,oil on canvas.  Rudolf Bauer, 1889-1953, born Germany, died USA.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Composition 8, 1923, oil on canvas.  Vasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, born Russia, died France.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Circular Forms, 1930, oil on canvas.  Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Fugue, 1920, paper collage with gouache and ink on paper.  Georges Valmier, 1885-1937, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Yellow Cow, 1911, oil on canvas.  Franz Marc, 1880-1916, born Germany, died France.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Fruit Dish on a Checkered Tablecloth, 1917, oil on wood panel. Juan Gris, 1887-1927, Spanish.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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On Brooklyn Bridge, 1917, oil on canvas.  Albert Gleizes, 1881-1953, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Red Cross Train Passing A Village, 1915, oil on canvas.  Gino Severini, 1883-1966, Italian.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, Museum NY

 

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Tableau No. 2, Composition No. VII, 1913, oil on canvas.  Piet Mondrian, 1872-1944, Dutch.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,  NY

 

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Window on the City No. 3, 1911-12, oil on canvas. Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum NY

 

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Stables, 1913, oil on canvas.  Franz Marc, 1880-1916, born Germany, died France.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY

 

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The Smokers, 1911-12, oil on canvas.  Fernand Leger, 1881-1955, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY

 

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Nude Model in the Studio, 1912-13, oil on burlap.  Fernand Leger, 1881-1955, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,  NY

 

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Eiffel Tower, 1911, oil on canvas. Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941, French.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,  NY

 

 

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Man in a Tower, 1924, oil on canvas.  Andre Masson, 1896-1987,  French.  Estate of Karl Nierendorf

 

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Carafe, Jug and Fruit bowl, 1909, oil on canvas.  Pablo Picasso, 1881- 1973, Spanish.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Accordionist, 1911, oil on canvas.  Pablo Picasso, 1881- 1973, Spanish.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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The Table, 1922, watercolouor and gouache on paper. Pablo Picasso, 1881- 1973, Spanish.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Dominant Curve, 1936, oil on canvas.  Vasily Kandisky, 1866-1944, born Russia, died France.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Several Circles, 1926, oil on canvas.  Vasily Kandisky, 1866-1944, born Russia, died France.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

 

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Red Lily Pads, 1956, painted sheet metal and metal rods.  Alexander Caldwell, 1898-1976, American.  Hanging in the atrium of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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