Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a French-American sculptor, painter and printmaker whose confessional, autobiographical approach to art left behind one of the most extraordinary bodies of work of the past century.
Born into a family of tapestry restorers in Paris, Bourgeois moved to New York when she married Robert Goldwater, the author of 'Primitivism in Modern Art', in 1938. In the early years of her long career (she continued to make art until her death in 2010, at the age of 98), Bourgeois worked and exhibited with artists as varied as the Surrealists Joan Miró, André Masson and the Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. In spite of her proximity to the prevailing movements of her time, Bourgeois developed her own unique, unconventional approach, premised upon the creation of symbolic objects loaded with profoundly personal significance and her own experience of psychoanalysis.
Characterised by themes of isolation, abandonment, childhood trauma and vulnerability, Bourgeois’ works are, despite the variety of the materials in which they are realised, focused on the human body and our desperate need for love and protection. The body is often, in her sculpture as in her paintings and works on paper, presented as trapped, tortured or transfigured: an explicitly physical expression of psychological pain.
Often overlooked in the early part of her career, Bourgeois achieved a wider audience from the 1970s onwards, due in part to new readings of her work by influential feminist critics. Her reputation increased steadily in the coming decades, abetted by the astonishing power, mystery and beauty of her late work, which is represented in the ARTIST ROOMS collection by, among other things, important fabric works, a series of 16 drawings, 'A L'Infini', and her final vitrine, produced in the last year of her life.
We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Easton Foundation in gifting 'Triptych for The Red Room' and 'Femme' to Tate for the ARTIST ROOMS collection.
Behind the scenes of ARTIST ROOMS: Louise Bourgeois
Jerry Gorovoy, Louise’s chief assistant and friend of 30 years, Anthony d’Offay, ex-officio curator and founder of ARTIST ROOMS, and Frances Morris, Head of collections, International Arts, Tate in conversation on the exhibition ‘A Woman Without Secrets’.
More videos by
ARTIST ROOMS Learning Resources are designed to aid teachers, educators and students working with the ARTIST ROOMS collection