In the early 1940s Bourgeois was a young woman struggling to bring up a family and find her place in the New York art world. She lived with her husband, the art historian Robert Goldwater, and their three children in a Manhattan apartment block. She used the roof space as an open air studio, her work reflecting the verticality of the surrounding skyscrapers.

The standing sculptures known as Personages link this architecture with the human form. To Bourgeois, they represented the people she had left behind in France.

At the same time as the early Personage sculptures, Bourgeois produced a series of engravings called He Disappeared into Complete Silence 1947. These also show her interest in the anthropomorphic qualities of architectural space. While the Personages demonstrate her skill as a sculptor, He Disappeared into Complete Silence marks the start of her ongoing exploration of projected psychological states: the loss, disappointment and violence described in her writings.

Louise Bourgeois Listening One 1947

Louise Bourgeois Listening One 1947
Bronze, painted white

Courtesy Cheim & Read, Galerie Karsten Greve and Galerie Hauser & Wirth
© Louise Bourgeois Photo: Christopher Burke

Louise Bourgeois Paddle Woman 1947

Louise Bourgeois Paddle Woman 1947
Wood and stainless steel

Private collection, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York
© Louise Bourgeois Photo: Christopher Burke