Louise Bourgeois - Photo of the artist, 1982 - Image via Robert Mapplethorpe

Louise Bourgeois /   Louise Joséphine Bourgeois

France 1911 - 2010

Installation, Sculpture, Prints

Louise Bourgeois
Louise Joséphine Bourgeois
October 11, 2016
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

Best known for her representations of the female form and dreamlike imagery, Louise Bourgeois was a versatile French artist who produced amazing pieces with goals of exploring topics of sexuality, pain and fear. Early in her life as she was starting a career in Paris, Bourgeois was associated with the concepts of Surrealism due to the regular use of fantastic elements within her printed pieces. However, when she relocated herself to the Big Apple in the late 1930s, Louise began to be primarily focused on sculpture, crafting unique biomorphic forms which made her globally renowned. Her choice to use unconventional materials such as resin, latex and cloth was underlined by a recurrent interrogation of the relation between male and female genders, leading many to a conclusion Bourgeois was a prominent representative of the Feminist movement. However, the artist herself did not pledge allegiance to any one movement, preferring to work in between all of them and simply pick the concepts that she saw as useful.

Louise Bourgeois - Crouching Spider, 2003 - Image via pinterestcom
Louise Bourgeois – Crouching Spider, 2003 – Image via pinterest.com

Emancipation from Her Father’s Clutches

Louise Joséphine Bourgeois was born on the 25th of December 1911 in Paris, France. She was the second kid of a total of three children born to parents Josephine Fauriaux and Louis Bourgeois. Her family owned a gallery that dealt primarily in antique tapestries, so logically Louise and her siblings were exposed to much artworks and their authors early on. At one point whilst she was still a toddler, Bourgeois’ family moved out of the French capital and set up a workshop for tapestry restoration below their apartment in Choisy-le-Roi, a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the southeastern suburbs of Paris. Although the lack of any real local competitors active within their family trade, Louise’s parents had a rather turbulent marriage. Her father had an often not very well hidden affair with both the Bourgeois’ English teacher and her nanny. These activities really made left their emotional mark on the young girl and this behavior displayed by her father effectively shaped the entire creative career she will have in the future. Since Bourgeois did not meet her father’s expectations due to her lack of ability within the field of tapestry, he was oftentimes rude towards her[1]. By her own acclaim, Louise began to truly hate him for his explosive temper, domination of the household and for teasing her in front of others. This relationship will prove to be a pivotal moment in shaping Bourgeois’s future in it’s every aspect.

Louise Bourgeois - Arch of Hysteria Women Works, 1993 - Image via Emily Heinz
Louise Bourgeois – Arch of Hysteria, 1993 – Image via Emily Heinz

The Road to Art

During the year of 1930, Bourgeois began attending classes at the Sorbonne, studying mathematics and geometry as these subjects were extremely based on stability – something the young women valued deeply at this point of her life. However, after she was shocked by the sudden death of her mother two years later, Bourgeois decided to abandon mathematics and to begin studying art. Her father, of course, opposed her choice as he always did, but this time, Louise was not to be stopped. After she graduated from the Sorbonne in 1935, Louise began studying art in Paris, first at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and later at the prestigious École du Louvre. After graduating from both institutions, Bourgeois continued to expand her ability by attending private classes at independent schools. During this period, the artist mostly focused on her father’s infidelities and rage problems in order to seek out inspiration, literally finding the creative impulse in her childhood traumas. However, the rough relationship with her dad was put on a hold at one point, as he helped his daughter to open up a print store beside his tapestry workshop. Around that exact time, Louise met her future husband. His name was Robert Goldwater[2], an American art historian noted for his pioneering work in the field known as naive art. After the two got hitched in 1938, they relocated to New York City the same year as Goldwater resumed his career as the professor of the arts at New York University Institute of Fine Arts. Meanwhile, Louise attended the Art Students League of New York, studying painting technique under Vaclav Vytlacil and evolving her skills within the mediums of sculpture and print.

Bourgeois’s artworks are renowned for their highly personal thematic content involving the topics of unconsciousness, sexual desire and the human body

All related modern works within a museum tell a woman-side story of the times
Louise Bourgeois – Bronze Hands – Image via pinterest.com

Conquering the NYC Scene

Early years of her life in The Big Apple were marked by both difficulties of a transition to a new country and troubles with staying pregnant. Additionally, Louise had massive difficulties to enter the exhibition world of New York City. Her artworks from this time were mostly made from junkyard scraps and driftwood, assembled and used in a way to make upright wood sculptures. In a sense, Bourgeois simply continued to investigate her traumatic past by creating disturbing wooden sculptures. Slowly but surely, she developed more artistic confidence and managed to hold her first solo show in 1945. It did not go as well as she had hoped, however, and the public did not receive her concepts with much euphoria. She took some time off after that, focusing on other things in her life. Nine years later, Bourgeois joined the American Abstract Artists Group, beginning collaborations with several contemporaries such as them Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. She also befriended the likes of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Being a part of the American Abstract Artists Group, Louise finally stopped using wood and began relying on marble, plaster and bronze to consist her structure. However, she continued to investigate her concerns like fear, vulnerability and loss of control. Artworks such as Femme Maison (1946) and Torso self-portrait (1963) all depict the feminine body and it was because of the approach to such topics that Bourgeois was branded by the public as a feminist. She denied this statement on numerous occasions[3], but much of feministic theories could be linked to this artist’s pieces. She has been quoted to say statements such as My work deals with problems that are pre-gender and For example, jealousy is not male or female.

Lousie raised a question if woman should have their own museum and artistic home
Louise Bourgeois – Femme – Image via xavierhufkens.com

Louise Bourgeois and Her Mature Career

In the early 1970s, Bourgeois started holding gatherings at her home in Chelsea, calling them Sunday, bloody Sundays. These improvised salons would be filled with young artists and students whose work would be critiqued by Louise – it was the ruthlessness in critique and her dry sense of humor that lead to the horrific naming of these meetings. However, she did inspire many young students to make fine art despite such an approach. About a decade later, Bourgeois received her first retrospective show in 1982, held at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Louise continued to experiment and advance her art down different paths for the remainder of her career, primarily focusing on sculptures. During the year of 2010, which will unfortunately prove to be the last year of her life, Bourgeois used her art to speak up for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality. She created the now iconic piece titled I Do, depicting two flowers growing from one stem. Although she still stayed clear of feministic radical ideas, Bourgeois said that everyone should have the right to marry[4]. Louise died of heart failure on the 31st May of 2010, at the Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. She had continued to create sculptures until her death, with her last piece being poetically finished the week before the fatal day.

Louise transformed her traumatic experiences into a highly personal visual vocabulary through the use of mythological and archetypal imagery, adopting objects such as spirals, medical tools and spiders

Bourgeois' modern works displayed at Century exhibition told a related story about past times
Louise Bourgeois – Spider, 1997 – Image via hyperallergic.com

Exploring the Concept of Sexuality

Although many critics and pundits remained determined in their endeavor to uncompromisingly mark Louise with the feministic brand, her art is ultimately much better described as sexual. This was undoubtedly one of the most important themes present in the work of Bourgeois as all other topics she tackled could somehow be linked to sexuality. Whether she aimed at exposing passion, fragility or insecurity, Louise always relied on some level of sexuality as she saw this as one of the most fundamental aspects of both her and the lives of the rest of us. This led her to establish a unique visual language that is easily describable as one of the most honest and rawest vocabularies the 20th century as in its arsenal.

This artist is represented by Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Marlborough Gallery Monaco, Me Collectors Room Berlin, and Marlborough Fine Art London.


  1. Bourgeois , L., Louise Bourgeois Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews, 1923-1997,The MIT Press, 1998
  2. Storr, R., Louise Bourgeois, Phaidon Press, 2003
  3. Lorz, J., Louise Bourgeois: Structures of Existence: The Cells, Prestel, 2015
  4. Bronfen , E., Kuspit , D., Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed: Psychoanalytic Writings, Violette Editions, 2012

Featured image: Louise Bourgeois – Photo of the artist, 1982 – Image via Robert Mapplethorpe
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group 
2017Louise Bourgeois - Turning Inwards Hauser & Wirth - Somerset, Bruton, SomersetGroup
2016Coming To Power: 25 Years Of Sexually X-Plicit Art By WomenMaccarone Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2016Sammlung Opitz-HoffmannStadtmuseum & Kunstsammlung Jena, JenaGroup
2016I still believe in miraclesInverleith House. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Group
2016The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics Henry Moore Institute, LeedsGroup
2016Solo Walks - Eine Galerie des Gehens Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur, ChurGroup
2016Louise Bourgeois. Estructuras De Existencia: Las CeldasMuseo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, BilbaoSolo
2015Louise Bourgeois. Structures Of Existence: The CellsGarage Museum of Contemporary Art, MoscowSolo
2015Louise Bourgeois - Les têtes bleues et les femmes rougesXavier Hufkens, BrusselsSolo
2015Louise Bourgeois - He estado en el infierno y he vueltoMuseo Picasso Málaga, MálagaSolo
2014Louise Bourgeois - Arbeiten auf Papier und StoffGalerie Anja Rumig, StuttgartSolo
2014Louise Bourgeois - L’araignée et les tapisseriesHubertus Exhibitions, ZurichSolo
2014Louise BourgeoisButler Gallery, KilkennySolo
2014Manifesta 10The State Hermitage Museum, St. PetersburgGroup
2014Cet obscur objet du désirMusée Gustave Courbet, OrnansGroup
2014AcchrochageGalerie Karsten Greve - St. Moritz, St. MoritzGroup
2014Call me on SundayKrinzinger Projekte, ViennaGroup
2014Post-Op - Perceptual Gone Painterly 1958-2014Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin - Paris, ParisGroup
20141 + 1 = 1 : When Collections Collide - The Montreal Museum of Fine ArtsMusée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Montreal, QCGroup
2014Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practice At UsfTampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FLGroup
2014ConfrontationGalerie Le Minotaure, ParisGroup
2013Louise Bourgeois, A Woman Without SecretsScottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo
2013Louise Bourgeois - I Give Everything AwayFruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo
2013Louise Bourgeois 1911 — 2010  mocca - Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, ONSolo
2013Louise Bourgeois - Rare and Important Works from a Private CollectionGalerie Karsten Greve - Paris, ParisSolo
2013Louise Bourgeois: EditionsGalerie Karsten Greve - Cologne, CologneSolo
2013EditionsGalerie Karsten Greve - Paris, ParisSolo
2013Between the LinesGraphische Sammlung der ETH, ZurichSolo
2013The Circle Walked CasuallyDeutsche Bank KunstHalle, BerlinGroup
2013Judy ChicagoBen Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art, LondonGroup
2013Eine Ausstellung mit abstrakten und surrealistischen Werken aus der Sammlung Viktor und Marianne LangenLangen Foundation, NeussGroup
2013In Principio I - 10 Meditationen Über Den AnfangKunsthalle Rostock, RostockGroup
2013High - Lights IIGalerie Schoots + Van Duyse, AntwerpGroup
2013PinkThe Columns, SeoulGroup
2013Portfolios from Peter Blum EditionPeter Blum Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013The Naked ManLudwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art - Budapest, BudapestGroup
2013The universal addressability of dumb thingsHayward Gallery, LondonGroup
2013The Universal Adressability of Dumb ThingsBluecoat Gallery, LiverpoolGroup
2012Between the LinesGraphische Sammlung der ETH, ZurichSolo
2012Louise Bourgeois: Alone and TogetherGalleri Faurschou - Beijing, BeijingSolo
2012Louise BourgeoisLa Casa Encendida, MadridSolo
2012Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, AlbertaSolo
2012PersonagesKukje Gallery, SeoulSolo
2012The Return of the RepressedFreud Museum, LondonSolo
2012Louise Bourgeois. Passage dangereuxHamburger Kunsthalle, HamburgSolo
2012Louise Bourgeois - Conscious and UnconsciousQMA Gallery, DohaSolo
2012From Death to Death and Other Small Tales | Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the D.DaskScottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, ScotlandGroup
2012The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their WorldPennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PAGroup
2012SculpturesGalerie Karsten Greve - Paris, ParisGroup
2012To Hope, To Tremble, To LiveThe Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, West YorkshireGroup
2012Family PortraitCarriage Trade, New York City, NYGroup
2012At the Edge: Recent AcquisitionsBerkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CAGroup
2012Dusk to Dusk: Unsettled, Unraveled, UnrealBucknell University, Lewisburg, PAGroup
2012Fourteen Modern MastersArt Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, WAGroup
2012Pictures from the MoonNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City, NYGroup
2012A Golden Time of DayMcClain Gallery, Houston, TXGroup
2012From Picasso to Koons. Artist’s JewelleryBenaki Museum, AthensGroup
2011Louise BourgeoisGalería Soledad Lorenzo, MadridSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois - Nordiska AkvarellmuseetThe Nordic Watercolour Museum, SkarhamnSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois – O retorno do desejo proibidoMuseu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, RJSolo
2011Louise BourgeoisFondation Beyeler, RiehenSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois - The PuritanGalerie Fahnemann, BerlinSolo
2011Louise BourgeoisInstituto Tomie Ohtake, São PauloSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois: Suites on FabricMarlborough London, LondonSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois - Femme - Listasafn IslandsNational Gallery of Iceland, ReykjavikSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric WorksCheim & Read, New York City, NYSolo
2011Louise BourgeoisNational Gallery of Canada - Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa, ONSolo
2011Louise BourgeoisCanadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, ONSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois: El retorno de lo reprimidoFundación PROA, Buenos AiresSolo
2011Mother and ChildKunstforeningen GL Strand, CopenhagenSolo
2011Louise Bourgeois - Estampes et dessinsGalerie Lelong - Paris, ParisSolo
2010Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric WorksHauser & Wirth, LondonSolo
2010Louise Bourgeois - Nordiska AkvarellmuseetThe Nordic Watercolour Museum, SkarhamnSolo
2010Louise BourgeoisStadtmuseum Jena, JenaSolo
2010Louise BourgeoisHenry Art Gallery, Seattle, WASolo
2010Hommage Louise BourgeoisMu.ZEE, OostendeSolo
2010Louise Bourgeois - PersonagesMuseum of Cycladic Art, AthensSolo
2010Grafik auf Stoff und PapierGalerie Karsten Greve - Paris, ParisSolo
2010Louise Bourgeois - Grafik auf Stoff und PapierGalerie Karsten Greve - Cologne, CologneSolo
2010Louise Bourgeois: Hang On!!The Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, MASolo
2010Louise Bourgeois - Les FleursKukje Gallery, SeoulSolo
2009Louise Bourgeois - Personages: Sculptures 1947-1954Lund Fine Art, OsloSolo
2009Self PortraitGalerie Pièce Unique, ParisSolo
2009Louise Bourgeois - A Stretch of TimeGalerie Karsten Greve - Cologne, CologneSolo
2009Louise Bourgeois Galleri Andersson Sandström - Stockholm, StockholmSolo
2009Louise BourgeoisHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DCSolo
2008Louise Bourgeois per CapodimonteMuseo di Capodimonte, NaplesSolo
2008Louise Bourgeois: EchoCheim & Read, New York City, NYSolo
2008Louise Bourgeois - Solomon RGuggenheim Museum, New York City, NYSolo
2008Louise Bourgeois - La Rivière GentilleHubertus Exhibitions, ZurichSolo
2008Louise Bourgeois - Nature StudyInverleith House, Edinburgh, ScotlandSolo
2008Louise Bourgeois - Centre PompidouMusée National d´Art Moderne, ParisSolo
2007Louise Bourgeois. La sage femmeEspacio AV, MurciaSolo
2007Louise Bourgeois: Hours of the day (suite of 25 cloth panels)Carolina Nitsch, New York City, NYSolo
2007Louise BourgeoisTate Modern, LondonSolo
2007Louise BourgeoisMarlborough London, LondonSolo
2007Louise Bourgeois, Recent ProjectsHaggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WISolo
2007Louise BourgeoisStorm King Art Center, Mountainville, NYSolo
2007Louise Bourgeois : AbstractionKukje Gallery, SeoulSolo
2007Bourgeois in BostonICA - Institute of Contemporary ArtBoston, Boston, MASolo
2007Louise Bourgeois - FugueKunstmuseum Bern, BernSolo
2006Louise Bourgeois - The Woven ChildWorcester Art Museum, Worcester, MASolo
2006Louise BourgeoisButler Gallery, KilkennySolo
2006Louise Bourgeois - Works on Paper from the 1940's and 1950'sPeter Blum Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2006Louise BourgeoisThe Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PASolo