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LOUISE BOURGEOIS: THE COMPLETE PRINTS & BOOKS

Louise Bourgeois: The Complete Prints & Books
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Clockwise from left: Do Not Abandon Me. 1999. Fabric; Umbilical Cord. 2000. Engraving, aquatint, and drypoint; The Family. 2010. Digital print on fabric

Motherhood & Family

Among Louise Bourgeois’s most symbolic titles is One and Others, referring to a preoccupation with personal relationships that motivated much of her art. She constantly struggled with a need for attachments, yet she experienced difficulty and ambivalence when dealing with those around her, most significantly her parents, siblings, husband, and children. Her memories of her mother and father never dimmed and found expression in countless works, as significant as the spiders that represented her meticulous mother, or the room-size tableau, The Destruction of the Father, that evokes violence and anger.

Upon the births of her own children, Bourgeois felt a profound sense of gratitude but was overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy. “There I was,” she said, “a wife and mother, and I was afraid of my family…afraid not to measure up.” She relived the birth experience in her art time and again—her own birth and that of her children—never more so than in the last decade of her life. Among her representations is a mother with an umbilical cord that remains attached to a baby.

Bourgeois also recalled simple family life of the 1940s, when her children were young, reinterpreting drawings of that period in new printed images. For her, it was as if no time had passed when she created an aquatint and drypoint in the 1990s depicting two of her small boys in the tub. Similarly, she assembled the illustrated book Album in 1994, gathering together nearly 70 snapshots from her long-ago childhood that encapsulated that earlier time.

I have three frames of reference…my mother and father…my own experience…and the frame of reference of my children. The three are stuck together.”
—Louise Bourgeois