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September 18: Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, Artist and Sculptor Age: 97 Hometown: Paris, France Education: The Sorbonne, École du Louvre and École des Beaux-Arts Most Famous Work From the Past Dozen Years: A 30-foot spider structure called "Maman," with a sac containing marble eggs
Renowned artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois was born December 25, 1911 in Paris, France. As a child, she helped her parents, who repaired tapestries, by drawing the missing segments for them. At age 15, she studied mathematics at the Sorbonne, and her studies of geometry contributed to her early cubist drawings. Still searching, she began painting, studying at the École du Louvre and then the École des Beaux-Arts, and worked as an assistant to Fernand Léger. In 1938 she moved with her American husband, Robert Goldwater, to New York City to continue her studies at the Art Students League of New York, feeling that she would not have stayed an artist had she continued to live in Paris. She currently lives and works in New York City.
She was the first woman to have a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and is best known for her "Cells," "Spiders" and various drawings, books and sculptures. In her sculpture, she has worked in many different mediums, including rubber, wood, stone, metal and fabric. Her works are sometimes abstract and symbolic with a focus on relationships — considering an entity in relation to its surroundings. All of Bourgeois' sculptures incorporate a sense of vulnerability and fragility. Bourgeois conveys feelings of anger, betrayal and jealousy, but with playfulness.
Her most famous work, from the last dozen years, is possibly the spider structure titled "Maman." The sculpture of a spider is over 30 feet high, with a sac containing marble eggs. "Maman" now stands outside Tate Modern in London, and a similar sculpture was featured at an art exhibition in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Her earliest exhibition, in 1947, consisted of tunnel sculptures and wooden figures, including "The Winged Figure." Despite early success at that show with one of the works being purchased for the Museum of Modern Art, Bourgeois was subsequently ignored by the art market during the fifties and sixties. It was in the seventies, after the deaths of her husband and father, that she became a successful artist.
In 1993, she represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. In 1999, she participated in the Melbourne International Biennial 1999, and was the first artist commissioned to fill the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. In October 2007, the Observer interviewed a number of British contemporary artists — Rachel Whiteread, Dorothy Cross, Stella Vine, Richard Wentworth and Jane and Louise Wilson — about how Louise Bourgeois's art inspired them, in an article called "Kisses for Spiderwoman." Vine described Bourgeois as one of the "greatest ever artists" and said that "few female artists have been recognised as truly important." She said there was a "juxtaposition of sinister, controlling elements and full-on macho materials with a warm, nurturing and cocoon-like feminine side" that appears within Bourgeois's art.