Louise Bourgeois was the main source of inspiration for my series of abstract self-portraits: Assignment 4: Life in Red White Black
Life and sources of inspiration
Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911. Her parents ran a tapestry restoration business where she helped out by drawing missing elements in the scenes depicted on the tapestries.
Bourgeois’s work is based, more or less overtly, on memory. Much of her work probes themes of loneliness, jealousy, anger, and fear. Many of these emotions originate in her vivid memories and sense of betrayal by her father who carried on an affair with Sadie Gordon Richmond, the English tutor who lived in the family house. This led her to seek psychoanalysis – a subject she wrote about a lot in her diaries. Through her work she is able to access and analyse hidden (but uncomfortable) feelings, resulting in cathartic release from them. She has said:
Some of us are so obsessed with the past that we die of it. It is the attitude of the poet who never finds the lost heaven and it is really the situation of artists who work for a reason that nobody can quite grasp. They might want to reconstruct something of the past to exorcise it. It is that the past for certain people has such a hold and such a beauty … Everything I do was inspired by my early life.
(Destruction of the Father, p.133.)
Bourgeois started printmaking in 1938, the year she moved to New York with her husband Robert Goldwater (1907-73). She experimented widely with techniques and effects, producing an important portfolio of etchings titled He Disappeared into Complete Silence (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) in the 1940s.
She used drypoint more frequently than any other technique. She produced around 1,500 prints that use only drypoint, or in combination with other intaglio techniques. She liked the fact that the drypoint needle was easy to manipulate and that no acid or special equipment was required. She referred to the scratching as an “endearing” gesture, a kind of “stroking.” While it could not “convert antagonism,” something she admired in engraving, she liked the immediacy of drypoint’s effects, with its soft, irregular line and tentative qualities. She used drypoint in some her most iconic print projects, such as the Sainte Sébastienne series, the portfolio Anatomy, and the illustrated book Ode à Ma Mère, which presents a range of her celebrated spider imagery.(https://www.moma.org/explore/collection/lb/techniques/drypoint)
Malbert, R., (2016) Louise Bourgeois: Autobiographical prints, London: Hayward Publishing.
Muller-Westermann, I. (ed.) (2015) Louise Bourgeois: I Have Been to Hell and Back, Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag.
Wye, D., (2017) Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, New York: MoMA.
Videos and interviews on her life and work