Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911, the daughter of an antique tapestry dealer. She died in 2010 in New York, leaving behind an enormous amount of work in every kind of medium- sculpture, installations, painting, mosaic- which has changed the path of contemporary art and inspired some of our most successful artists.
Here are some reasons we can all take inspiration from such a brave and endlessly adventurous artist like Louise Bourgeois!
1. Louise fought against adversity to be an artist
Louise Bourgeois grew up in Paris, and helped her mother restore tapestries. Her father wanted her to follow a conventional path, so she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her subject was not art, but maths and geometry, because she said she “got peace of mind only through the study of rules nobody could change”. Eventually, Bourgeois quit to follow her ambitions of being an artist, and faced the judgement not only of her father, but also of the art world, which dismissed her avant-garde style.
2. She worked her personal history into her art
Nowadays, artists like Tracy Emin have made a career from self-exploration and the deeply personal aspects to their work, but it was Louise Bourgeois who really brought this kind of autobiographical art (known as ‘confessional art’) to the fore. Her works often reference childhood heartbreaks (the discovery that her nanny was her father’s mistress, for example) and her experiences of sex, childbirth and womanhood, and she often displayed clippings from her personal diaries alongside her work. Using art as a way to ‘work through’ emotions will help you not only make art that speaks to others, it will also help you take inspiration from painful things.
3. She was never afraid to try new things!
Louise Bourgeois was obsessive about trying out new ways to express her creative spirit and was always experimenting with new forms and techniques. She loved to paint, often in gouache, but she was also very skilled at sculpture: she had an enormous appetite for learning new techniques: stone, brass, installations made of latex and resin, and even embroidery and tapestry. Take encouragement from Bourgeois’ love of the new, and keep experimenting with your own practice: you can only improve by trying new things.
4. She never let age get in the way!
Some of Louise Bourgeois’ most celebrated works were produced during her later years, and she continued working- 6 days a week- right up until her death aged 98. In her later years, she became well-known for her activism, her outspokenness and her striking, oversized sculptures, such as her gargantuan 30-ft spider structure ‘Maman’ which was exhibited all over the world. It sold at auction for over £10million, the highest price paid for a work of art by a female artist. She was proof that it’s never too late to paint (or sculpt)!
We love Louise Bourgeois but we would like to hear what you think! Do you find her work inspirational? Which artist has inspired you the most?
Author: Clara Tait