Louise Bourgeois

French-American, 1911–2010

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.

Installation photo of digital print in colours by Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin depicting image of pregnant nude female torso in profile with blue wash drawing on the womb and text additions by Emin.

Deep Inside My Heart I Came to You #6, 2009–10

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. 

Composite installation photo of diptych by Louise Bourgeois depicting a framed letterpress print with phrase repairs in the sky in grey and another framed lithograph of web like composition in red.

Repairs in the Sky, 1999

There I was, a wife and mother, and I was afraid of my family…afraid not to measure up.

—Louise Bourgeois

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.

Installation photo of framed lithograph by Louise Bourgeois depicting a cropped image of female pregnant nude in profile, child in womb visible on grey background.

The Reticent Child (Ex Libris), 2005