Louise Bourgeois dies


98 years old Louise Bourgeois died on Monday of a heart attack at a hospital in Manhattan. Ms. Bourgeois was best known for her statuette and alarming symbolism and was one of the grande dame of modern-day artists.


When in 1945, an esteemed venue in Manhattan’s then-intimate art world, Peridot Gallery, staged Ms. Bourgeois first solo sculpture show, it was then that sculpture had become her primary medium. She was acknowledged as the first female to be honored with retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1982.

Her position as a world renowned figure in art was consolidated by subsequent retrospectives that she received in 1993 and 2007 as she visited prominent in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Madrid, London, Paris and St. Petersburg and Russia.

When in 2007, San Francisco Arts Commission saw her massive bronze “Crouching Spider” (2003) at Pier 14 on the Embarcadero, her miniatures on an outlook at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco through June 12, came to the lime-light to the Bay Area public in 2007. A career survey had also been presented to Ms. Bourgeois in 1996 by the Berkeley Art Museum.

Female sexuality had been represented by her in the work of spider imagery. It was a Freudian symbol, and was portrayed as a confidential icon of her mother and a commemoration of arachnids’ vital predator character in keeping the Earth’s insect population in check.



Louise Bourgeois Quotes

Louise Bourgeois created “Maman”, the giant spider currently being assembled outside the National Gallery of Canada. When I went there today, the spider only had five legs, and was hanging from a crane. A second crane was there, presumably, to attach the legs.

* * *

“My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama.”

“When I was born my father and mother were fighting like cats and dogs. And the country was preparing for war, and my father who wanted a son got me, and my sister had just died. Please let me breathe.”

“For me, sculpture is the body. My body is my sculpture.”

“What interests me is the conquering of the fear, the hiding, the running away from it, facing it, exorcising it, being ashamed of it, and, finally, being afraid of being afraid.”

“My mother was a restorer, she repaired broken things. I don’t do that. I destroy things. I cannot go the straight line. I must destroy, rebuild, destroy again. My rhythm is not the same. My mother moved in a straight line: I go from one extreme to the other.”

“An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing.”

“My work disturbs people and nobody wants to be disturbed. They are not fully aware of the effect my work has on them, but they know it is disturbing.”

“In real life, I identify with the victim. . . . In my art, I am the murderer. I feel for the ordeal of the murderer, the man who has to live with his conscience.”

“Sometimes it is necessary to make a confrontation – and I like that.”

“Art is a guarantee of sanity. That is the most important thing I have

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois was born on December 25, 1911, in Paris. As a teenager, Bourgeois assisted her parents in their tapestry-restoration business, making drawings that indicated to the weavers the repairs to be made. In 1932, she entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics, but abandoned that discipline for art. In the mid- to late 1930s, she studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Académie de la Grande-Chaumière, École du Louvre, Atelier Fernand Léger, and other Parisian schools. In 1938, Bourgeois married an American, the art historian Robert Goldwater, and moved to New York. There, she studied for two years at the Art Students League and was soon participating in print exhibitions.


After moving to a new apartment in 1941, Bourgeois began to make large wood sculptures on the roof of her building. In 1945, her first solo show, comprised of twelve paintings, was held at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York and her work was first included in the Whitney Annual (later the Whitney Biennial). In the mid- to late 1940s, she worked at Stanley William Hayter’s printshop, Atelier 17, where she met Le Corbusier, Joan Miró, and other Europeans exiled by World War II. In 1949, she exhibited works from her Personage series in the first show of her sculpture, at Peridot Gallery in New York.

In 1951, Bourgeois became an American citizen. Continuing her mode of abstracted figuration instilled with psychological and symbolic content, she remained stylistically distinct from New York School developments. She did, however, join American Abstract Artists in 1954. In the 1960s, she taught in public schools and at Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute in New York. She would continue to teach at colleges and universities during the following decade. In the late 1960s, Bourgeois’s imagery became more explicitly sexual as she explored the relationship between men and women and the emotional impact of her troubled childhood (her father had had a ten-year affair with her governess). From 1967 until 1972, she made trips to Pietrasanta, Italy, to work in marble.


With the rise of feminism and the art world’s new pluralism, her work found a wider audience. In the 1970s, she began to do Performance [more] pieces—among them A Banquet/A Fashion Show of Body Parts (1978), in which she wrapped art historians and students in white drapery with sewn-in anatomical forms—and expanded the scale of her three-dimensional work to large environments.

The first retrospective of Bourgeois’s work was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1982–83), and her first European retrospective was assembled by the Frankfurter Kunstverein (1989). Bourgeois was selected to be the American representative to the 1993 Venice Biennale. Her collected writings were published in 1998. In 2000, three thirty-foot-high towers by Bourgeois, commissioned by the Tate Modern in London—I Do, I Undo, and I Redo—were featured in that museum’s inaugural exhibition. Many of her large-scale works have been exhibited as public art, including three spider sculptures installed at Rockefeller Center in New York in 2001 under the aegis of the Public Art Fund.

Bourgeois’s achievements have been recognized with, among other honors, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1973), membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1981), a grand prize in sculpture from the French Ministry of Culture (1991), and the National Medal of Arts (1997). Bourgeois lives and works in Manhattan.