Bourgeois began making prints in the late 1930s, first experimenting at home with relief techniques, and then learning lithography at the Art Students League. She practiced intaglio, which she preferred, at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17, and also bought her own small press. When she turned definitively to sculpture in the late 1940s, Bourgeois abandoned printmaking, taking it up again only in the late 1980s, when it then became integral to her work.
A preoccupation with personal relationships motivated much of her art. She constantly struggled with a need for attachments, yet she experienced difficulty and ambivalence when dealing with those around her, most significantly her parents, siblings, husband, and children.
There I was, a wife and mother, and I was afraid of my family…afraid not to measure up.
Upon the births of her own children, Bourgeois felt a profound sense of gratitude but was overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy. She relived the birth experience in her art time and again—her own birth and that of her children—never more so than in the last decade of her life. Among her representations is a mother with an umbilical cord that remains attached to a baby.