"Expose a contradiction, that is all you need."
LOUISE BOURGEOIS SYNOPSIS
Louise Bourgeois's work, which spanned most of the twentieth century, was heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father's infidelity. Bourgeois's often brooding and sexually explicit subject matter and her focus on three-dimensional form were rare for women artists at the time. Beginning in the 1970s, she hosted Sunday salons in her Chelsea apartment, where students and young artists would take their work to be critiqued by Bourgeois, who could be ruthless and referred to the gatherings, with characteristically dry humor, as "Sunday, bloody Sunday". Nevertheless, this accessibility and willingness to advise younger artists was exceptional for an established artist of such standing. Her influence on other artists since the 1970s looms large, but is manifested most strongly in feminist-inspiredand in the development of .
LOUISE BOURGEOIS KEY IDEAS
MOST IMPORTANT ART
Femme Maison (1946-47)
This series dealt with the dramatic changes in Bourgeois's private life in the early 1940s: marriage and domesticity, living in a foreign country, and mothering three children. Each drawing or painting in the series depicts a nude female figure whose head has been replaced by architectural forms that resemble houses. Bourgeois struggled to live up to her idealized memory of her own mother. These works suggest that she felt both trapped and exposed by the domestic responsibilities that consumed her life as she wrestled with finding her artistic voice.
LOUISE BOURGEOIS BIOGRAPHY
Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911 and named after her father, Louis, who had wanted a son. During the week, her family lived in the fashionable St. Germain in an apartment above the gallery where her parents sold their tapestries. The family also had a villa and workshop in the countryside where they spent their weekends restoring antique tapestries. Throughout her childhood, Bourgeois was recruited to help in the workshop by washing, mending, sewing, and drawing. The workshop was overseen by Bourgeois's mother, Josephine, with whom she was very close. As an adolescent, Bourgeois attended the elite Lycee Fenelon in Paris. Tensions in the household, particularly the fact that her father's mistress (who was also Bourgeois's tutor) resided with the Bourgeois family, would later come to inform Bourgeois's highly autobiographical artwork.
Bourgeois had a wide-ranging education. In the early 1930s, she studied math and philosophy at the Sorbonne, where she wrote her thesis on Blaise Pascal and Emmanuel Kant. After the death of her mother in 1932, she began studying art, enrolling in several schools and ateliers between 1934 and 1938, including the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Academie Ranson, the Academie Julian, and the Academie de la Grande-Chaumiere. Her first Paris apartment was on the rue de Seine in the same building asGalerie Gradiva, where she became familiar with the work of the Surrealists. In 1938, she began exhibiting her work at the Salon d'Automne and opened her own gallery in a sectioned-off area of her father's tapestry showroom, exhibiting prints and paintings. Through her short career as an art dealer, she met art historian , with whom she married and relocated to New York City in 1938.
Upon arrival in New York, Bourgeois enrolled at theand focused her attention on printmaking and painting, while also having three children in four years. Throughout the 1940s and '50s, Goldwater introduced Bourgeois to a plethora of New York artists, critics, and dealers, including importantly , the director of the , who bought one of her works for the MoMA collection in 1953. In the late '40s and '50s, she had several solo shows in various New York galleries. Her husband received a Fulbright grant and they returned with their children to France for several years in the early 1950s, during which time her father died. Bourgeois began psychoanalysis in 1952, which she continued on and off until 1985. In the 1960s, Bourgeois began experimenting with latex, plaster, and rubber, and also traveled to Italy, where she worked with marble and bronze.
Bourgeois's husband died in 1973, the same year she began teaching at various institutions in New York City, including the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, and Cooper Union. She also participated in several exhibits in the 1970s and '80s and began presenting performance pieces. In the 1970s, Bourgeois also became politically active as a socialist and a feminist. She joined the Fight Censorship Group, which defended the use of sexually explicit imagery in art, and made several of her own sexually explicit works related to the female body, such as(1968). Marking her prestige in the art world, Bourgeois had her first retrospective in 1982 at MoMA, which was the first given to a female artist at that institution. In 1993, Bourgeois, who became an American citizen in 1955, was chosen to represent the USA in the Venice Biennale. She died in 2010.
LOUISE BOURGEOIS LEGACY
Bourgeois's work helped inform the burgeoning feminist art movement and continues to influence feminist-inspired work and installation art. The first assemblages of
LOUISE BOURGEOIS QUOTES
"It is really the anger that makes me work."
"I am my work. I am not what I am as a person."
"I love all artists and I understand them (flock of deaf mutes in subway). They are my family and their existence keeps me from being lonely. To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer."
"My work is obsessive. It doesn't concern the audience. I don't mean that I am not interested in the audience - but it is not my motivation."
"The only access we have to our volcanic unconscious and to the profound motives for our actions and reactions is through shocks of our encounters with specific people."
"Every day you have to abandon your past or accept it, and then if you cannot accept it you become a sculptor."
Louise Bourgeois Influences
Interactive chart with Louise Bourgeois's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
Louise Bourgeois BOOKS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art
By Mignon Nixon
Louise Bourgeois Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews, 1923-1997
By Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois's 'Cells': Looking at Bourgeois through Irigaray's Gesturing Towards the Mother
By Katy Deepwell
Louise Bourgeois Retrospective
By Kelly Rand
Sculptor Louise Bourgeois: A year of events celebrating her life and work
By Paul Stuart
Louise Bourgeois, Influential Sculptor, Dies at 98
By Holland Cotter
Louise Bourgeois obituary
By Michael McNay