Louise Bourgeois

Dec 24, 1911, Paris, France

Louise Bourgeois, a prolific artist, 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 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.

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