Louise Bourgeois ( 1911 – 2010 )

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Louise Bourgeois was an American artist of French origin. She worked in a variety of media, including painting and printmaking, although she is primarily remembered for her sculptures. Bourgeois was born in Paris on 25 December 1911. When she was still a young girl, her parents moved to the Parisian suburb of Choisy-le-Roi and established a workshop restoring tapestries. Some of Bourgeois’ earliest artistic activies date to this period, when she filled in the designs of tapestries in places where they had been worn down.


Cumul I, 1968, Paris, Pompidou

 In 1930 Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne, intending to study mathematics and geometry. She switched to art following the death of her mother in 1932. After graduating from the Sorbonne in 1935 she continued her studies at a number of French art schools, including the École du Louvre and the École des Beaux-Arts. Her creativity, in this period and throughout her life, was often inspired by childhood memories and trauma—most notably recollections of her father’s infidelities with the family’s English governess.



Bourgeois met her husband, the American art historian Robert Goldwater, in 1938 at a print shop she ran. The couple moved to America that year, and there Bourgeois attended the Art Students League of New York. Shortly after, in the 1940s, she began working in earnest to enter the New York art world. Her sculpture during this period was often composed of scraps from junkyards and pieces of driftwood.


Maman, 1999, bronze cast, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Nature Study, 1984/2001, pink rubber, courtesy of The Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg Museum

 In 1949 she had her first sculpture exhibition, at the Peridot Gallery, which included works such as Woman in the Shape of a Shuttle (1947-49). After this exhibition she abandoned painting to focus primarily on sculpture, although she also continued to produce drawings and prints.


The Destruction of the Father, 1974, New York, Xavier Fourcade


 Throughout subsequent decades Bourgeois’ work and style continued to evolve. Her reputation in the art world increased notably in the 1970s, and the first retrospective of her work was at New York’s MOMA in 1982. Subsequent years saw additional exhibitions, both of her sculpture as well as of her drawings and prints. Although she worked in a variety of styles, her work was always autobiographical, as she herself asserted, and often based on the notion of seeking comfort in a painful world.

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