Hazel King-Farlow was born in New York in April 1903, and is the younger sister of influential gallery proprietor Peggy Guggenheim. Hazel was the only artist of the three Guggenheim sisters; she began painting in her teens and was prolific all her life. She shared a love of art with Peggy and they both chose to live a more bohemian life than their upbringing allowed, rebelling and moved to Europe in the 1920s, whilst their oldest sister Benita remained closer to the family fold.
Hazel and Peggy’s relationship was uncomfortable: Peggy regarded herself as the family’s ugly duckling, making her envious of Hazel’s perceived charms. She refused to exhibit Hazel’s painting, apart from one notable occasion, the 1943 ‘Exhibition by 31 Women’, at Peggy’s New York gallery. This exhibition was the first to give group recognition to modern women artists. Hazel’s work was finally exhibited in 1998 at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, but this was after Peggy had died in 1979.
Depsite being from a very wealthy family Hazel did not lead a particularly happy life; she suffered a series of tragedies. When she was only eight years of age her father, returning from Europe for her birthday, went down on the Titanic. At only 19 she married (the first of six) but it failed immediately and Hazel escaped to Paris. She then attended the Sorbonne, married again and had two sons. Tragically, during a family visit to New York both of her baby sons fell to their death from a skyscraper, a horror which the family swept under the carpet. Things did not improve, when her sister Benita died in childbirth and later Hazel’s best beloved fourth husband would die in the war.
In 1931 Hazel’s third marriage, to Denys King-Farlow, allowed her to settle in Sussex where she had two more children. For a time Peggy lived nearby with her family and both sisters began to take art very seriously. Hazel had her first solo exhibition in London in April 1937. She sold or donated work to public art galleries and her paintings can be seen in Wakefield, Manchester and Leeds. Meanwhile Peggy opened her first gallery, Guggenheim Jeune, in London. Hazel also ran a small gallery in the States much later, in the 1960s.
Due to the war, Hazel returned to the USA in 1939, and Peggy in 1941. Peggy married surrealist Max Ernst, while Hazel fell for and married portrait painter and USAAF pilot Chick McKinley, they would paint side by side in a garden studio. Sadly, he died in a plane crash. Hazel had three more brief marriages, but continued using the surname McKinley, after her artist-airman.
Like her sister, Hazel collected contemporary art, but unlike Peggy she donated it to public institutions. Her most important gift was Kandinsky’s Cossacks, to the Tate Gallery in 1938. Eventually her collection was depleted by this generosity. She died in 1995, and her son and daughter scattered her ashes in the Mississippi.
Sue Gilbert, writer and photographer