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Louise Bourgeois

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (French: [lwiz buʁʒwa] ( listen); 25 December 1911 – 31 May 2010) was a French-American artist. Although she is best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker. She explored a variety of themes over the course of her long career including domesticity and the family, sexuality and the body, as well as death and the subconscious. These themes connect to events from her childhood which she considered to be a therapeutic process. Although Bourgeois exhibited with the Abstract Expressionists and her work has much in common with Surrealism and Feminist art, she was not formally affiliated with a particular artistic movement.

Bourgeois was born on 25 December 1911 in Paris, France. She was named after her father who wanted a boy. She was the second child of three born to parents Joséphine Fauriaux and Louis Bourgeois. She had an older sister and a younger brother. Her parents owned a gallery that dealt primarily in antique tapestries. A few years after her birth, her family moved out of Paris and set up a workshop for tapestry restoration below their apartment in Choisy-le-Roi, for which Bourgeois filled in the designs where they had become worn. The lower part of the tapestries were always damaged which was usually the characters’ feet and animals’ paws. Many of Bourgeois’s works have extremely fragile and frail feet which could be a result of the former.

By 1924 her father, a tyrannical philanderer, was indulging in an extended affair with her English teacher and nanny. According to Bourgeois, her mother, Josephine, “an intelligent, patient and enduring, if not calculating, person,” was aware of her husband's infidelity, but found it easier to turn a blind eye. Bourgeois, an alert little girl, hoarded her memories in her diaries. As a result, she wished to execute manipulation in a similar manner; the medium became sculpture. Her father’s affair became the weapon in this revenge. Sculpture enables one to overcome the problem by displacing it; which finally allows the freedom to do what good manners forbade the child to do.

As a child, Bourgeois did not meet her father's expectations due to her lack of ability. Eventually, he came to adore her for her talent and spirit, but she continued to hate him for his explosive temper, domination of the household, and for teasing her in front of others.

In 1930, Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics and geometry, subjects that she valued for their stability, saying "I got peace of mind, only through the study of rules nobody could change."

Her mother died in 1932, while Bourgeois was studying mathematics. Her mother's death inspired her to abandon mathematics and to begin studying art. Her father thought modern artists were wastrels and refused to support her. She continued to study art by joining classes where translators were needed for English-speaking students, in which those translators were not charged tuition. In one such class Fernand Léger saw her work and told her she was a sculptor, not a painter.

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Louise Bourgeois Artworks
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