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Louise Bourgeois Photo

Louise Bourgeois

French-American Sculptor

Born: December 25, 1911 - Paris, France
Died: May 31, 2010 - New York, New York, USA
"Expose a contradiction, that is all you need."
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Louise Bourgeois Signature
"It is really the anger that makes me work."
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Louise Bourgeois Signature
"I am my work. I am not what I am as a person."
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Louise Bourgeois Signature
"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."
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Louise Bourgeois Signature
"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."
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"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."
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"Every day you have to abandon your past or accept it, and then if you cannot accept it you become a sculptor."
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Summary of Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois' life was a prolific demonstration of utilizing the creation of art as a tool for processing one's inner emotionality and psychological landscape. Working across a wide variety of mediums that included painting, drawing, and sculpture, her work dealt largely in dissecting, exploring, and reacting to the traumatic events from her own childhood that included her father's infidelity. Bourgeois' often brooding and sexually explicit subject matter and her presentation of the female viewpoint in regards to suppression, feminism, and sensuality alongside a distinct focus on three-dimensional form were rare for women artists at the time. Her single-minded devotion to expression, both as an artist and as a mentor to young artists, lent Bourgeois an international importance that remains vast, manifested most strongly through her influence on the development of conceptual and Installation Art.


  • Bourgeois wholly autobiographical artwork is renowned for its highly personal thematic content involving the unconscious, sexual desire, jealousy, betrayal, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and the body. These themes draw on events in her childhood for which she considered making art a therapeutic or cathartic process.
  • Bourgeois transformed her experiences into a highly personal visual language through the use of mythological and archetypal imagery, adopting objects such as spirals, spiders, cages, medical tools, and sewn appendages to symbolize the feminine psyche, beauty, and psychological pain.
  • The artist likened her work, and its myriad installation settings, as "cells" - or containers of memory, which both froze a recollection or feeling in time while also evoking the emotions that said memories produced.
  • Through the use of abstract form and a wide variety of media, Bourgeois dealt with notions of universal balance, playfully juxtaposing materials conventionally considered male or female. She would, for example, use rough or hard materials most strongly associated with masculinity to sculpt soft biomorphic forms suggestive of femininity.

Biography of Louise Bourgeois

Bourgeois' iconic work exhibited outside the Museo Proa in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bourgeois' turbulent and traumatic experiences are interconnected with her later artistic explorations - as she once said: "I became an artist - to find a mode of survival."

Important Art by Louise Bourgeois

Femme Maison (1946-47)

The Femme Maison series of paintings are a poignant exploration of female identity, worked on in conjunction with Bourgeois' transition into motherhood and American life. The title literally means "housewife" and all of the works contain the common elements of parts of a woman's nude body merged with architectural forms. The result is a Surrealist-worthy collage that was years ahead of the second wave of feminism, hinting at the struggles women would face in balancing work and home life.

This series dealt with the dramatic changes in Bourgeois private life in the early 1940s: marriage and domesticity, living in a foreign country, and mothering three children. Bourgeois also 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.

In her own words, Bourgeois said the Femme Maison "does not know that she is half naked, and she does not know that she is trying to hide. That is to say, she is totally self-defeating because she shows herself at the very moment that she thinks she is hiding."

The Blind Leading the Blind (1947-49)

The Blind Leading the Blind is an early sculpture constructed from pointed wooden planks attached to a flat beam. The whole represents her complicated feelings about both her parents and her own experience of parenthood as both a delicate and sometimes confining act of balance. The artist likened this piece to a table, inspired by early memories of spending time underneath one herself, from which she could only spy her parents legs as they moved throughout a room. Moreover, she recalls this memory as an unpleasant one, as she felt alienated from her parents and sought refuge under furniture.

The work is part of Bourgeois' Personnages series, made between 1945 and 1955. The series includes approximately 80 standing sculptures touching on the autobiographical themes that occupied Bourgeois throughout her career such as homesickness, latent trauma over familial betrayal, and a desire to connect with loved ones. Each piece in the series resembled or recalled a person known to the artist. These abstract totemic figures were shown with no bases and were arranged in clusters that for Bourgeois referenced a reconstruction of her peopled past.

Femme Volage (Fickle Woman) (1951)

Another key piece from Bourgeois' Personnages series of abstracted elements used as personal totems, Femme Volage is a fractured assemblage made up of stacked wooden forms on a central rod that resembles a needle or spindle, tools that likely reference her mother's work as a weaver. This work also shows her early interest in the spiral form, which would become a common motif.

The work was created in Bourgeois' rooftop studio in New York City shortly after she had moved there from France. It was part of a series of sculptures that helped her process her feelings of being a foreigner in a strange city and her personal issues that surrounded juggling life as a mother, wife, and artist.

The totem-like structures were also significant contributions to the avant-garde of the late 1940s, of which primitive forms were created as Surrealist symbols of the unconscious, also seen in the work of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko among others.

Influences and Connections

Useful Resources on Louise Bourgeois

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Louise Bourgeois Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 24 May 2014. Updated and modified regularly
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