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Louise Bourgeois (American, born France. 1911–2010)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American sculptor, painter and printmaker of French birth. Her parents ran a workshop in Paris restoring tapestries, for which Bourgeois filled in the designs where they had become worn. She studied mathematics at the Sorbonne before turning to studio arts. In 1938, after marrying Robert Goldwater, an American art historian, critic and curator, she went to New York, where she enrolled in the Art Students League and studied painting for two years with Václav Vytlačil (b 1892). Bourgeois’s work was shown at the Brooklyn Museum Print Exhibition in 1939. During World War II she worked with Joan Miró, André Masson and other European expatriates.

Although Bourgeois exhibited with the Abstract Expressionists—and, like them, drew from the unconscious—she never became an abstract artist. Instead, she created symbolic objects and drawings expressing themes of loneliness and conflict, frustration and vulnerability, as reflected in her suite of engravings and parables, He Disappeared into Complete Silence (1947).

In 1949 Bourgeois had her first sculpture exhibition, including Woman in the Shape of a Shuttle (1947–9; New York, Xavier Fourcade), at the Peridot Gallery; this work proved typical of her wooden sculpture and foreshadowed her preoccupations of the following years. Her first sculptures were narrow wooden pieces, such as Sleeping Figure (1950; New York, MOMA), a ‘stick’ figure articulated into four parts with two supporting poles. Bourgeois soon began using non-traditional media, with rough works in latex and plaster contrasting with her elegantly worked pieces in wood, bronze and marble. In the 1960s and 1970s her work became more sexually explicit, as in the Femme Couteau group (1969–70; King’s Point, NY, J. and E. Spiegel priv. col.) and Cumul I (1969; Paris, Pompidou). The psychological origins of her work are particularly evident in Destruction of the Father (1974; New York, Xavier Fourcade). Bourgeois’s work was appreciated by a wider public in the 1970s as a result of the change in attitudes wrought by feminism and Post-modernism.

Rina Youngner
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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