París, 1911- New York, 2010
In spite of late recognition, Louise Bourgeois is today considered a twentieth century artist of highest renown. An eclectic artist who worked in both sculpture and drawing, engraving or art installations, she made her own life to be a constant source of inspiration.
Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in a family dedicated primarily to the sale of, and later on to restoring, old tapestries where the little Louise made her artistic contributions.
She knew of the continual infidelities of her father during a grave illness of her mother, and this was to notably affect her character, and also the work of the young Louise.
Having graduated at the Sorbonne in Mathematics, she carried on with her studies at the “Academie de la Grande Chaumière”, taking classes in the Louvre school, and that of Fine Arts.
In the thirties she went to workshops and Paris salons and met the cubist painter, Fernand Léger, who defined her more as an sculptor than as a painter.
1938 was to be an important year for Louise as she broke off completely from the family business, opened her own art gallery and married the North American Historian Robert Goldwater (the first director of the museum of Primitive Art of New York). With him she settled down in New York where she enrolled immediately in the independent art school known as Art Students League. She also began to get interested in engraving, a technique which was to accompany her until the end of her days.
Her first solo exhibition was made in the prestigious Bertha Schaeffer Gallery of the “Big Apple” in 1945.
In the fifties, she began to work with latex, marble and plaster. She sculptured vertical forms, like totems which she herself called “her personages” in an attempt to face how she missed her country. The use of art as a therapy would be constant during her life, an escape route which helped her come to terms with insomnia and depressions.
In 1973, Bourgeois began her teaching phase, giving classes in several colleges and public schools. In her work can be found the themes of maternity, sexuality, femininity and the body.
In 19182, she celebrated her first retrospective exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art, achieving a longed-for international recognition, moving away from the peripheral figure of sculpture whose work had made her most admired and acclaimed.
In the middle of the nineties, she began to explore one of her greatest obsessions: “the spider as mother, predator and weaver” – an allusion to the figure of her own mother as a symbol of protector and predator at the same time. It is then, in spite of her extensive and recognised work, when Louise Bourgeois is known the world over for one of her most peculiar works – the arachnid sculpture 9.27 high titled “Maman” which has been exhibited all over the world.
Without resting from work and researching until the last days of her existence, she passed away in Manhattan in 2010 a the age of 98 years – one of the most original and inventive woman artists of the twentieth century who always considered art as “a guarantee of mental health”.
Louise Bourgeois has received many prizes and her works are on show in the best galleries and museums in the world.
- “Self portrait”, engraving, 1940-1990.