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Peggy Guggenheim at Lavandou (Var). 5th, Issue


     A known classic of Alfred Courmes 

            The portrait of Peggy Guggenheim, painted in1926 inthe vicinity of Le Lavandou, (Saint Clair, Var).

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                  “Peggy Guggenheim”, oil on canvas (100x65), French American museum of Blérancourt Castle © adagp



It is thanks to her sister in law Clotilde Vail that I met Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy lived in the vicinity, next to Saint Clair. She came often for shopping at Le Lavandou in a small Citroën car (détail), among the first in this series, which looked like a little red can.I had noticed this young lady, behaving in the utmost Parisian chic, her family being already known as patronizing artists. I met one evening, during a film projection in the open air, Clotilde Vail. She was a small American lady, free in her appearance with a direct approach of things. We became friends right away. This is how I became friend of Peggy who owned a nice mansion among pine trees (détail) with a private beach. Clotilde’s brother, (married to Peggy) was also a painter, turned to abstraction, in Herbin’s way. I had sympathy for the man and moreover, I confess, for his sister, but his paintings meant nothing to me. Peggy, on her side, was in deep admiration of her husband art. One day I suggested her to make her portrait. When I had finished it, she may have found it too realistic, too close to reality. This portrait I have kept for a long time.”



This portrait is now at the museum of French American cooperationpération  at the Blérancourt Castle.  It was purchased by Pierre Rosenberg  President of the Louvre Museum between 1994 and 2001, and member of theFrench Academy.





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Peggy Guggenheim, lead pencil 1926                                                    Peggy Guggenheim 1926


Some History :

Marguerite “Peggy” Guggenheim is an American patroness, gathering modern art works, born in New Yorkon August 26th, 1898, in the west quarter of 69th avenue; she died on December 23rd inVenice where she had spent the last years of her life.

marin de dos logo.jpgSelf made woman in modern art, she learnt with friends like Marcel Duchamp or Jean Cocteau how to appreciate abstractive art which she ultimately promoted with much taste, sometimes against the ideas of her uncle Solomon Guggenheim, who will need some time to acknowledge the value of Peggy purchases.

She opened a Gallery inLondonunder the name “Guggenheim Jeune” promoting artists then not well known. During the second World War, using her name and her American nationality, she saved a number of artists obtaining for them false identity cards and financing their trip toUnited States.

Her name remains attached to the museum she founded inVeniceon theGrand Canal, in the Venier dei Leoni Palace which was her ultimate house. Her tormented life of easy accessible woman, “men eater”, hid the tenacity and flair she experimented like her uncle Solomon R. Guggenheim

Analysis of the painting:

“ This portrait is frank of any provocation and irony. During the summer 1926, Courmes is very often at the Pramousquier mansion and makes the portrait of Peggy Guggenheim. This work shows a turning point in the practice of this painter, admirer of Flemish and Italian masters, influenced by cubist technique, but satisfied by a return to realism in painting. The young lady, with a sky background, takes three quarters of the painting surface. In the background, on the left side, the painter showed the car of his model and her house dominating the sea. The high trees on the far back on each side remind those of “The holly Virgin and the little bird” by Raphaël, or “Apolon and Marsyas” by Perugin. The elaborate way the painting is made, the association of colours and the geometry of shapes and volumes show a permanent cubist influence in the work of Alfred Courmes”.  Alain Galoin




The Holly Virgin and the little bird” .Raphaël, 1506.                            “Appolon and Marsyas” by Pérugin, 1523.

The so-called 5 HP by Citroën (for amateurs!)


The mini Citroën 5HP launched in the crazy twenties was built in a Levallois factory (a suburb of Paris), rented by Citroën from Clément Bayard Automobiles at the end of 1921.

Shorter by48 centimetresthan the then existing model, weighting less than500 kilograms, this two seaters car, at first named Type C, with an electric starter, had an engine with lateral valves and four cylinders, cooled by a thermal siphon of 856 cm3 permitting  a speed of60 kilometresper hour, for a tax registration of 11 Horsepower.

The outside body, sharpened like a sea going vessel, was made of light steel sheets on wooden frame, which permitted the speed objective. It had no door on the driver’s side.

The gearbox had three speeds, but there were no brakes on the front wheels. The accelerator was at the time the central pedal and the engine had to be started with a manual crank. 

Firstly nicknamed “hen tail”, due to a pointed back, and solely sold in bright yellow colour at the start, it was also named “The Little Lemon”. 


To know more:

The portrait of Peggy Guggenheim has been shown:

      -      1989  Roubaix, "La Piscine", museum from April 29th to June 11th (extended to June 25th)

      -      1989  Poitiers, from July 3rd to September 4th.    

      -       1989  Georges Pompidou Museum from September 12th to October 22nd (except on            October 5th due to a staff strike)

      -       2009 Montauban ,Ingres Museum, with in the exhibition “Ingres and the modernists”

from July 3rd to October 4th (headed by general commissar Dimitri Salmon)




Some books:


-     Jean-Marc Campagne, Alfred COURMES, Prospecteur de mirages entre ciel et chair,

      Photographs by Robert Doisneau, Jacqueline Hyde, Marc Vaux, Publisher Eric Losfeld,    

      1973, page 15.


-     Vitalie Andriveau- Gilles Bernard, Alfred COURMES,  foreword by Michel Onfray,

      Publisher Le Cherche Midi, 2003, pages 40-41. Some remaining issues available at

       The Orsay museum bookshop.


-     Paolo Barozzi, Peggy Guggenheim, the collection, Publisher Assouline 2005  front cover.    

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