self made fan: not so crazy guggenheims

According to legend, on a certain Sabbath eve Meyer Guggenheim, patriarch of the family that was to become so rich and heavy laden, summoned his seven sons into his study, one by one. To each in turn he showed seven sticks and, one by one, snapped each stick in two. Then, assembling the seven sons, he took up still another seven sticks in a bunch, but try as he would he could not break them: “separate you are easily broken. Together, none can break you. My sons, be as one.”

---Most emigres found their way to New York City where Peggy Guggenheim exhibited their work at the "Art of this Century" gallery, which she opened in 1942. This photograph was taken during a gathering of these artists at her New York apartment. (left to right, front row: Stanley William Hayter, Leonara Carrington, Frederick Kiesler, Kurt Seligmann. Second Row: Max Ernst, Amedee Ozenfant, Andre Breton, Fernand Leger, Berenice Abbott. Third Row: Jimmy Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, John Ferren, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian)---Read More:

Of course, there is an air of improbability which hangs over this moral tale. In the first place, Meyer Guggenheim was not the sort of man to break forty-nine perfectly good sticks of wood unnecessarily. Secondly, his sons were far too shrewd to require such theatrics to drive home an obvious lesson they were already acquainted with.

Thomas Sully. Passage of the Delaware. 1819.---John H. Davis:Like many patriarchs, Meyer Guggenheim loved to speak to his family in maxims. One was: "Roasted pigeons do not fly into one's mouth." Another required a little elaboration. Pulling out a bundle of seven sticks, one representing each son, he asked each to break it. When none could, Meyer pressed his point: "Together you are invincible. Singly, each of you may be easily broken. Stay together, my sons, and the world will be yours." Read more:,9171,948096,00.html#ixzz1ucxKhXFn image:

But whether the legend is true or not, there is no doubt that the very substantial fortune accumulated by the Guggenheim’s was the result of fraternal teamwork. And that fortune grew and grew. It was one of those only in America stories of the new world, capitalism and opportunity; their “luck” being the residue of design and opportunity, to use the phrase of Branch Rickey. At its height, around the beginning of WWII, it was commonly accounted the second largest in America, yielding place only to Rockefeller’s deep pockets and long purse. Neither Carnegie nor Vanderbilt was close; and as for Ford, the newspaper quip was ” He is richer than any Guggenheim, but there are seven Guggenheims.”

---In the high-rolling, modern-Medici world of 20th-century art patronage and art collecting, Peggy Guggenheim was unique. She collected art like nobody else, picking up items that didn’t sell, and works for which there was, as yet, no market, just because she loved them. She bought art, not as an investment, but because she saw something that her own eyes told her was great. She discovered Jackson Pollock when he was a humble carpenter in Solomon Guggenheim’s museum, and gave him his first exhibition in 1950 at the Museo Correr in Venice. But her years spent in actual acquisition were, in fact, few: about 1938 to 1940 in England and France; and 1941-46 in America.--- Read More:

An acquisitive society celebrates the Acquisitive Man. Whether he be called captain of industry or robber baron, every step of this person’s way has its interest: how they got it, how they got more, and how cruelly they stamped on toes in accumulating it, why they slowed down in their pursuit of it, and in some ways, the most fascinating of all is what they did with it. When compared to other great American fortunes, the question was always asked what made the Guggenheim’s differ from others. The first answer is the speed with which it was put together and the second, later, was the daring in which it was spent… ( tbc)


( see link at end) : Irwin and Debi Unger spoke Wednesday at Coliseum Books about their book “The Guggenheims: A Family History” (HarperCollins).

The Ungers discussed Meyer and Barbara Guggenheim’s arrival to Philadelphia in 1847, and went on to describe how they and their seven sons amassed a fortune in the mining and smelting businesses.

In The New York Sun’s review of “The Guggenheims,” Francis Morrone noted the family’

nnovative methods of maintaining labor relations. Mr. Unger told the Knickerbocker that Roger Straus Sr. – who was a Guggenheim on his mother’s side – introduced pensions for employees in the 1920s.Their environmental practices were less modern. Mr. Unger said the Guggenheims’ open-pit mines of “amphitheater size” would be considered scandalous by today’s standards.

Mr. Unger called “Buddenbrooks syndrome” a central theme of “The Guggenheims.” The condition was named after a novel by Thomas Mann and details the progression of family wealth: First and second generations build equity; third generations spend money and become “concerned with philosophy” and the arts.Read More:

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