Louise Bourgeois with Spider IV in 1996, Photo: Peter Bellamy
Born in Paris in 1911, Bourgeois grew up in provincial France, helping with the family’s tapestry restoration business before immigrating to New York in 1938.
“Everything I do,” she has explained, “was inspired by my early life.”
Viscerally present in her art is the psychic trauma of her mother’s early death,
her father’s betrayal of the family with his 10-year affair with their live-in English tutor,
and her overlapping roles of student, daughter, wife, mother and artist.
Louise Bourgeois in the studio of her apartment at 142 East 18th Street in New York, circa 1946
Louise Bourgeois was born in 1911 in Paris, where she studied at various art schools, including the Ecole du Louvre, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Académie Julian, and with Fernand Léger.
She continued her studies in the United States at the Art Students League in New York. Bourgeois began to draw attention with her sculpture in the 1940s and was very active on the New York art scene, but it was not until the late 1970s that she achieved true fame.
In 1982 the Museum of Modern Art organized a major retrospective exhibition
entitled Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective.
Louse Bourgeois, Spider, 1996, Cast-bronze, Collection of Barbara Lee, Cambridge, Massachusetts
In an art world where women had been treated as second-class citizens and
were discouraged from dealing with overtly sexual subject matter,
she quickly assumed an emblematic presence.
Her work was read by many as an assertive feminist statement,
her career as an example of perseverance in the face of neglect.
Brassai, Louise Bourgeois at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumiére, Paris, 1937, Photo: Louise Bourgeois Archive.