Discipline: Visual Art – installation, Visual Art – painting, Visual Art – printmaking, Visual Art – sculpture

Louise Bourgeois

Discipline: Visual Art – installation, Visual Art – painting, Visual Art – printmaking, Visual Art – sculpture
Region: New York, NY

Edward MacDowell Medalist: 1990

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a French-American artist. Although she is best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker. She explored a variety of themes over the course of her long career including domesticity and the family, sexuality and the body, as well as death and the subconscious. She used sculpture to cope with her father’s infidelity. As a child, Bourgeois did not meet her father's expectations due to her lack of ability. Eventually, he came to adore her for her talent and spirit, but she continued to hate him for his explosive temper, domination of the household, and for teasing her in front of others.

In 1930, Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics and geometry, subjects that she valued for their stability, but she dropped the sciences to pursue art when her mother died in 1932. She graduated from the Sorbonne in 1935 and moved on to study art in Paris, eventually opening a print store where she met her husband Robert Goldwater in 1938.

They emigrated to New York City the same year, where Goldwater resumed his career as professor of the arts at New York University Institute of Fine Arts, while Bourgeois attended the Art Students League of New York, studying painting under Vaclav Vytlacil, and also producing sculptures and prints. She became an American citizen in 1951.

In 1954, Bourgeois joined the American Abstract Artists Group, with several contemporaries, among them Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. At this time she also befriended the artists Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.

Although Bourgeois exhibited with the Abstract Expressionists and her work has much in common with Surrealism and Feminist art, she was not formally affiliated with a particular artistic movement. Later, in the 1970s and until her death, Bourgeois would inspire her students to create feminist art, align herself with activist groups like the Fight Censorship Group and AIDS activist organization ACT UP.

Portrait by Robert Mapplethorpe