Artist biography

American sculptor, painter and printmaker of French birth. 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. 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, she never became an abstract artist. Instead, she created symbolic objects and drawings expressing themes of loneliness and conflict, frustration and vulnerability.

In 1949 Bourgeois had her first sculpture exhibition, including Woman in the Shape of a Shuttle, 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. 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 Postmodernism.

W. Anderson: ‘American Sculpture: The Situation in the Fifties', Artforum, v (1967), pp. 60–67
L. R. Lippard: ‘Louise Bourgeois: From the Inside Out', From the Center: Feminist Essays on Art (New York, 1976)
Louise Bourgeois (exh. cat. by D. Wye, New York, MOMA, 1982) [with many pls, chronology and bibliog.]


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