10 Facts About Louise Bourgeois

Written by - Essie King
Louise Bourgeois Spider Woman. Image of a woman’s head used as the core body of a spider. Enclosed in a red oval shape of what appears to be an egg.Image © 1st Dibs / Spider Woman © Louise Bourgeois 2004

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Master of materials Louise Bourgeois is an incomparable talent. Her life’s works have left an impact on not only the contemporary market, but a collection of her peers and collectors. Here’s 10 facts you might not have known about Louise Bourgeois.

“My art is a form of restoration in terms of my feelings to myself and to others.”
Louise Bourgeois

Her mere existence is truly a gift

Louise was born on Christmas day in Paris, 1911. It was there where she would begin her journey of developing into one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

Black and white photograph of Louise Bourgeois Spider sculpture. An oversized spider sculpture with an apparent shadow due to the lighting in the photo.Image / The Art Newspaper © / Spider Louise Bourgeois 1996

She’s a pioneer in the market

Bourgeois’ most expensive work ever sold at auction was her 1996 Spider sculpture, which sold for $32 million in 2019 at Christie's. That same year, she was recognized as the only female artist to earn one of the top 10 highest grossing lots. 20% of sales by women artists that year came from her.

Print of Louise Bourgeois’ Spiral Woman. A black and white sketch of a woman whose hair is as long as her height appears to be floating. An object or fabric is spiralling around herImage © The Museum of Modern Art / Spiral Woman © Louise Bourgeois 2002

Her father had an affair with her nanny

Bourgeois’ works reflect her own rationalisations and relationships within her complex family dynamic. These affairs were to be later depicted in some of her most notable works throughout her career.

“I felt like I was holding the baton of time in history and that Louise was like helping me through the next stage of my life.”
Tracey Emin

She mentored Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin has noted and credited Louise Bourgeois many times as not only as a professional influence, but as someone who has supported her personally, outside of the market.

A print of Louise Bourgeois’ Girl With Hair. A nude woman’s figure with strands of hair that stands up and away from the face, long enough to cover the woman’s length of her body. She is painted with a monochromatic style in the colour red.Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Girl With Hair © Louise Bourgeois 2007

Louise Bourgeois fostered the Feminist Art movement (but didn’t identify as one)

Bourgeois' work frequently explored themes of femininity, gender, and power. However, despite her recognition as a pioneer in the movement and works like Arch Of Hysteria and Femme Maison, she has stated “I am a woman, so I don’t need to be a feminist.

A print of artist Louise Bourgeois’ Femme Maison. A woman’s figure interrupted by a house covering from the bust to thee face in front of a muted red background.Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Femme Maison © Louise Bourgeois 1993

She explores dark, psychological themes in her work

Bourgeois' work often explored themes related to her own psychological experiences, including feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, and trauma. She used her art as a way to work through these emotions and to process her own personal history, as seen in The Destruction Of The Father.

Photograph of a young Louise Bourgeois with her parents. Her father standing behind her, and her mother to the right of her, holding her hand.Image © The Easton Foundation / Louise Bourgeois with her parents, Joséphine and Louis © Louise Bourgeois 1915

Her parents had a creative background

Bourgeois' parents owned a tapestry gallery and restoration business, which exposed her to textiles and craftsmanship from a young age. Its lasting impression on Louise influenced her future work with soft sculptures.

A photograph of Louise Bourgeois’ The Dinner Party installation. A view of a triangular-shaped dining table with ornate and decorative place settings.Image © The Brooklyn Museum / The Dinner Party © Louise Bourgeois 1979

Nobody sees her the way she does

Torso, Self-Portrait is a prime example of Louise’s impression or rather, realisation of herself. Her self-image is intellectual and introspective, opposite of what would traditionally be an iteration of the male gaze.

Black and white photograph of artist Louise Bourgeois smiling while holding onto a phallic shape object underneath her arm.Image © Tate Modern / Louise Bourgeois © Robert Mapplethorpe 1982

She went on sabbatical

After spending time receiving therapy after her father’s death, Louise Bourgeois spent a considerable amount of time away from her work. It wouldn’t be until the early 1960s that she returned to her craft.

Photograph of artist Louise Bourgeois’ Arch Of Hysteria bronze statue. A headless figure that has an arch in their back from bending over backwards, touching the heels of their feet.  Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Arch of Hysteria © Louise Bourgeois 1993

She’s earned global recognition for her work

Louise has won recognition for her work all across the world. She received an honorary doctorate from Yale in 1977, the National Medal of Arts by the United States in 1997, and in 2008 she was awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest award among the French.

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