The Oscar Magnuson guessing game with Peggy Guggenheim

One of the first ladies ever to inspire an Oscar Magnuson frame was the redoubtable Peggy Guggenheim. Born at the turn of the last century, Peggy was an heiress with a unique mind and a terrific attitude who has been credited with developing abstract expressionism, the first American art movement to achieve worldwide importance. Wildly eccentric, she was passionate about modern art making it her life ambition to promote it to a wider audience. She took on wildly ambitious schemes opening galleries in London and New York, her native city.
Her life began dramatically with her father dying in the Titanic sinking. Despite inheriting close to $20 million in current currency, she went to work in an avant-garde book store and it was there she became enamoured with the bohemian community. But she soon tired of her New York clique. Travelling to Europe in search of sexual and artistic adventure she found Paris. Mixing with the arty set, she was photographed by Man Ray and became a great friend of Marcel Duchamp who she was to champion for the rest of his career. Other famous friends included James Joyce and Isadora Duncan. In fact, it was at a dinner party of James Joyce’s where she met Samuel Beckett with whom she was to have a brief affair.

Peggy was before her time; she married at 24 complaining that previous admirers had been far too respectable. As she put it, “I had a collection of photographs of frescos I had seen at Pompeii. They depicted people making love in various positions, and of course I was very curious and wanted to try them all out myself.” In fact, rumours claim Peggy bedded over 1,000, both men and women, however this figure she denies putting it in the mere hundreds despite two marriages.

It was in the late thirties and early forties Peggy Guggenheim came into her element. 1938 saw the opening of gallery Guggenheim Jeune in London which she launched with Marcel Duchamp. He introduced her to much of the modern art community and helped her decide which pieces to buy.

The gallery’s opening show was dedicated to Jean Cocteau and was soon after followed by solo exhibitions of Wassily Kandinsky, Yves Tanguy and Wolfgang Paalen, and group shows including works by Henri Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Pablo Picasso. However the first year saw the gallery make a loss and Peggy closed it with a farewell party on 22nd June 1939.

Inspired by her famous uncle Solomon R. Guggenheim’s foundation started two years earlier in New York, she began making plans for a Museum of Modern Art in London together with English art historian and art critic Herbert Read. Travelling to Paris to negotiate loans for the first exhibition, she found herself somewhat thwarted by World War II and so decided to simply buy all the paintings on Read’s list. “Having plenty of time and all the museum’s funds at my disposal, I put myself on a regime to buy one picture a day.” Finally she had amassed ten Picassos, forty Ernsts (whom she was to marry in 1941), eight Mirós, four Magrittes, three Man Rays, three Dalís, one Klee, one Wolfgang Paalen and one Chagall among others.

But in 1940 the Germans were days away from Paris and Peggy fled with her art to the south of France. In 1941, driven out of Europe by the Second World War, she set up a gallery in New York called Art of This Century, where she showcased artists including Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, David Hare and Mark Rothko.

Oscar Magnuson designs are inspired by iconic personalities similar to Peggy Guggenheim who were and are exceptionally self assured, confident enough to follow and realise their dreams. For Spring Summer 2011, they have been selected from various eras of the twentieth century, the Catherine frame named after a beautiful French actress is oversized and typically 60’s in shape. Ice is boxy and obviously 80’s in style, taking its cue from previous models such as Sebastién, M.I.A. and a certain famous rapper. Google ‘Herta’ and you’ll see exactly why that frame has been named as such. Coco is a icon of the fashion world. Many of these characters are stars in the sparkling worlds of fashion, art, music and film. Some however hail from situations of adversity. Having fought political battles against oppression or society injustices, these people inspire not only through talent, but their ability and will to make change happen. Statement frames reflect this courage and strength.

Oscar Magnuson eyewear is inspired by inner strength, but it is the search for identity that is the overarching theme. What kind of person wears an Oscar Magnuson frame? Do the frames reflect a facet of one’s personality or a window into one’s alter ego, the person they wish or pretend to be? Of paramount importance is the impression one wants to convey, at the end of the day choosing eyewear and wearing it should simply be fun. Confidence is inner strength and a sense of humour, just look at Peggy Guggenheim.

Peggy Guggenheim