Louise Bourgeois, French (1911 - 2010)

Louise Bourgeois

 A prolific artist, she created an immense body of work including prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture, the latter being the medium that brought her international attention. In fact, she was one of the first installation artists.

Recognition came somewhat late in her life because she spent many years committed to domestic life of raising children and maintaining a home for them and her husband.

She was born in France three years before the beginning of World War I, and her early childhood was unsettled because she and her mother traveled about to follow her father in the military. After the war, her parents worked in a tapestry factory, and much of the family conversation concerned hard work and technique and style. She attended school at the Lycee Fenelon in Paris and majored in philosophy and then attended the Sorbonne. Her mother died when Louise was eight years old, and she was so grief stricken that she found refuge in the subject of geometry, which was logical, predictable, and systematic and provided a world of order for her.

She studied art with post-cubist Ozenfant and Leger and lived the life of the Bohemian on the Left Bank of Paris while commuting from her home. At the Grande Chaumiere, the workshop of generations of art students, she had the honorary job as overseer of the models, all prostitutes whom she admired as fearless and amazingly modest and clean.

In 1937, she became a guide at the Louvre, and in 1938, she married Robert Goldwater, American art historian to whom she was married until his death in 1973. They raised three sons in New York City, and she loved nurturing children.

Her first exhibition, an innovative assemblage of black forms symbolic of human beings and the unity of the family, was in 1949, and other wood groups followed suggesting all sorts of topics on the human condition including abused women, sex, love and anxiety. Her techniques include carving, welding, casting and assemblage.

In 1977, she earned an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and in May, 1999, she was chosen one of the century's top twenty-five most influential artists in the west by ARTNews magazine for the great impact her work has had on other artists in the exploration of "human forms, relationships, and language."

For the May 2000 inauguration of the Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London, Bourgeois was commissioned to do a large-scale work to occupy the 500 foot long Turbine Hall.


1911 Born in Paris, France
1932 - 1935 Studies at the Sorbonne, Paris, France
1936 - 1937 Studies at the Ecole du Louvre, Paris, France
1936 - 1938 Studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France
1937 - 1938 Pupil of Fernand Léger
1938 Emigrates to the USA, New York
Artist Grant National Endowment for the Arts
Awarded Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Elected Member, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York
President's Fellow Award, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, French Ministry of Culture
Lives and works in New York
Selected Exhibitions
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2007, Tate Modern, 'Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective', London/GB, traveling to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2006, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 'Louise Bourgeois', Bielefeld/D
2005, Hauser & Wirth London, 'Sublimation', London GB
2005, Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Stitches in Time', North Miami FL
2005, Wifredo Lam Centre, Havana CU
2004, Daros Collection, 'Louise Bourgeois', Zürich/CH
2003, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 'Louise Bourgeois', cur. Julie Sylvester Cabot, Humlebaek/DK
2003, Dia Center for the Arts, 'Louise Bourgeois. Installation at Inauguration of Dia: Beacon', New York NY
2003, The Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Louise Bourgeois. The Insomnia Drawings', New York NY
2002, Galerie Hauser & Wirth, 'Louise Bourgeois. Works in Marble', Zurich/CH
2002, Palais de Tokyo, 'Louise Bourgeois. Le Jour La Nuit Le Jour [film and sound installation]', Paris/F
2001, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 'Louise Bourgeois', Bilbao/E
2001, The State Hermitage Museum, 'Louise Bourgeois', cur. Julie Sylvester Cabot, St. Petersburg/RUS
2000, Tate Modern, ‘Louise Bourgeois‘ [retroscpective and installation], London/GB
2000, Galerie Hauer & Wirth, ‘Louise Bourgeois. Neue Arbeiten/Recent Works‘, Zurich/CH
1999, Museo Nacional, Centro de Arte Reina Sofìa, ‘Louise Bourgeois. Memoria y arquitectura‘, Madrid/ E
1999, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, ‘Louise Bourgeois‘, Bielefeld/D
1998, Serpentine Gallery, ‘Louise Bourgeois. Recent Work‘, London/GB
1998, The Art Gallery of Ontario, ‘Past Tense. Louise Bourgeois‘, Toronto/CDN
1998, The Whitney Museum of American Art, ‘Louise Bourgeois: Topiary‘, New York NY
1996, Deichtorhallen, ‘Louise Bourgeois. Der Ort des Gedächtnisses Skulpturen, Environments und Zeichnungen. 1946-1995‘, Hamburg/D
1996, Galerie Hauser & Wirth, ‘Red Room‘, Zurich/CH
1995, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, ‘Louise Bourgeois. Sculptures, environnements, dessins. 1938-1995‘, Paris/F
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2005, La Biennale di Venezia, 51st International Art Exhibition, Venice IT
2005, Istanbul Modern,'Permanent Instability, Istanbul TR
2004, Fundació Joan Miro, 'La Femme: Métamorphose de la modernité', Barcelona ESP
2004, Site Santa Fe's 5th International Biennal, 'Disparities and Deformations, Santa Fe NM
2003, Mori Art Museum, 'Happiness. A Survival Guide for Art and Life', Tokyo/J
2003, Musée National d’art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 'Louise Bourgeois and James Lee Byars', Paris/F
2002, 'documenta XI', Kassel/D
2002, Sammlung Hauser & Wirth, 'The House of Fiction', St. Gallen/CH
2002, Tate Modern, 'Surrealism. Desire Unbound', London [traveled to Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY
2001, Brooklyn Museum of Art, 'Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960', New York
2001, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 'Rodin to Baselitz. The Torso in Modern Sculpture', Stuttgart/D
2000, 12th Biennale of Sidney, ‘Agents of Change‘, cur. Harald Szeemann, Fumio Nanjo [et al.], Sidney/AUS
1999, The Whitney Museum of American Art, ‘The American Century. Art & Culture. 1950-2000‘, New York NY
1999, Hirshhorn Museum/Sculpture Garden, ‘Regarding Beauty. A View of the Late 20th Century‘, Washington DC
1999, XLVIII Esposizione Internazionale d’arte, Biennale di Venezia, 'dAPERTutto', Venice/I
1999, SITE, 'Looking for a Place. The third International SITE Santa Fe Biennial', Santa Fe NM
1998, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, ‘Mirror Images. Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation‘, San Francisco CA
1998, Moderna Museet, ‘Wounds. Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art‘, Stockholm/S
1998, XXIV Sao Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo/BR

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