French-born US sculptor and painter. Working in a variety of media, she became known for her abstract and deeply personal sculptures. Early work includes The Blind Leading the Blind (1947–49), a wooden sculpture evocative of a massive comb, but she became more widely known during the 1990s for her Maman series of spiders, the largest of which is more than 30 ft/9 m high and resides at the Tate Modern, London. Themes include childhood and human vulnerability, and many of her sculptures suggest exaggerated and often sexually explicit forms of the human body.
Bourgeois became widely known late in her career, and after representing the USA in the Venice Biennale in 1993 she was the subject of the retrospective ‘Louise Bourgeois: The Locus of Memory, Works 1982–1993’ in New York and Washington, DC; this was followed by several other exhibitions in Europe and the USA.
Bourgeois was born in Paris and studied mathematics at the Sorbonne before attending art school. After marrying US art historian Robert Goldwater (1907–1973), she moved to New York in 1938. She held her first solo exhibitions of paintings in 1945 and sculpture in 1949. During the 1970s she taught art at Columbia University, Cooper Union, and Yale University. Awards include France's Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (1983) and the USA's National Medal of Arts (1997).
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