Collection 1940s–1970s

Louise Bourgeois. Sleeping Figure. 1950 411

Painted balsa wood, 6' 2 1/2" x 11 5/8" x 11 3/4" (189.2 x 29.5 x 29.7 cm). Katharine Cornell Fund. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY

Curator, Sarah Suzuki: Louise Bourgeois moved from France to New York in 1938, where she eventually studied at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 and there, she came into contact with a number of European Surrealist artists who had taken refuge in the States during World War II. Surrealism—with its biomorphic forms and totemic figures—was just one of many touchstones for Bourgeois, who made use of her own biography to address larger themes of motherhood, femininity and sexuality.

Curator, Jodi Hauptman: Sleeping Figure is part of a group of more than eighty totemic works made in wood known as Personages. Bourgeois was an artist for whom certain motifs and themes recurred across mediums. In her nearby works on paper, you'll see references to bodies, hair and plant forms. They appear abstract even as they evoke the body. They're at once delicate and defensive.

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