Louise Bourgeois was introduced to the arts as a young girl in Paris. Her parents owned an embroidery company, and she would fill in missing parts of tapestries that became worn and needed to be re-woven.
Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne in 1930 to study mathematics, but switched her focus to visual arts following her mother’s death in 1932. As her father disapproved of this decision, she self-funded her education by translating for English-speaking art students. She later attended art schools in France and opened a print shop upon graduation, where she soon met American art historian Robert Goldwater. The couple married and immigrated to New York, where Bourgeois continued her training at the Art Students League. She was given her first solo exhibition in 1945 and continued to work in a variety of media including engraving, painting and sculpture. In 1954, Bourgeois perfected her three-dimensional work when she joined the American Abstract Artists group along with Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. This marked an important turning point in Bourgeois’ career, as she started to investigate concerns like fear and vulnerability through dabbling in stone, wood, bronze, rubber and fabric.
Bourgeois found most of her inspiration from the trauma of her father’s infidelity, which she has remarked, “My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.” She became recognized as the founder of Confessional Art, as most of her work is autobiographical. She chose to embody her mother’s nurturing side in her spider sculptures, for which she received the nickname
Spiderwoman. Bourgeois stated, “I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn't get mad. She weaves and repairs it.” In 2011, one of her spider sculptures sold for $10.7 million, which was the highest auction price to be achieved by a female artist at the time.
In 1973, she started teaching at the Pratt Institute, Cooper Union, Brooklyn College and the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. She received her first retrospective in 1982 at the MoMA and another in 1989 at Documenta 9 in Kassel, Germany. She continued to create work until her death in 2010.
Louise Bourgeois haswork featured in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, the MoMA, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Samsung Museum of Modern Art, Seoul and The National Gallery in Ottawa.
Related Categories: Use of Found Objects, Decay/Deterioration, Use of Organic Material, Sculpture, Contemporary Re-creations, United States, Wood, California Art, Nature, Mortality.