- Also known as
primary name: Bourgeois, Louise
- individual; sculptor/medallist; painter/draughtsman; printmaker; French; American (USA); Female
- Life dates
- Born in Paris on Christmas day 1911, where her parents ran a business restoring tapestries, Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne and studied mathematics in 1932. She then decided to take up art and in 1935 enrolled initially at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and then at a number of studio-schools, including the Académie Julian and the Grand Chaumière. In 1938 she married the American art historian Robert Goldwater, and they moved to New York where she enrolled at the Arts Students League. She studied painting under the Czech modernist Vaclav Vytlacil, and from 1938 until the early 1940s made lithographs with the League's printer, Will Barnet. At home she taught herself to make woodcuts and linocuts. A number of her early prints draw upon domestic life at the family's rural place at Easton, Connecticut.
From 1946 to 1949 Bourgeois worked intermittently at Hayter's Atelier 17, where she became friends with Joan Miró and several émigré artists. She sensed Hayter's exasperation with her as a beginner, and later recalled the workshop as 'an anxious environment' (Bourgeois, in interviews with Deborah Wye 1992-93; cited by Wye and Smith, p. 27). She produced some thirty-eight intaglio prints during this period at Atelier 17, the most important of which were her seminal suite of nine engravings from 1947, He Disappeared into Complete Silence. After Hayter's return to Paris in 1950, Bourgeois ceased working at Atelier 17, and for the next twenty years concentrated on making sculpture. Her first solo exhibition of sculpture was at the Peridot Gallery, New York, in 1949, with further shows in 1950 and 1953. In 1951 the Museum of Modern Art acquired her narrow, upright wood sculpture, Sleeping Figure, 1950.
Bourgeois returned to printmaking following the death of her husband in 1973. To cope with the loss, she taught printmaking at the School of Visual Arts, New York, from 1974 to 1977. She was an unconventional teacher, making the students question their intentions behind the imagery, and left the teaching of the technical aspects of printmaking to an assistant. Although a few prints were made during this period, her return to printmaking became fully engaged from the late 1980s. She began to work with a series of publishers, including Galerie Maeght, Paris, Peter Blum Editions, New York, and latterly Harlan and Weaver in New York. She also began to reissue some of her earlier engravings using photogravure.
Bourgeois continued to be highly active as a sculptor and printmaker. In 1990 she presented her entire printed oeuvre to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, with subsequent additions of new work. She died in New York on 31 May 2010 at the age of 98.
- Frances Morris and Marie-Laure Bernadac, eds, 'Louise Bourgeois', exh. cat., London: Tate Modern, 2007
Deborah Wye and Carol Smith, 'The Prints of Louise Bourgeois', New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994 (catalogue raisonné)
Emmanuel Pernoud, 'Louise Bourgeois: estampes', exh.cat., Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1995 (brochure)
Deborah Wye, 'Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait. Prints, Books and the Creative Process', exh. cat., New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2017 (print retrospective)