The Paris Review Daily

In Memoriam

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)

June 1, 2010 | by

When Louise Bourgeois published “The View From the Bottom of the Well,” a seminarrative portfolio of prints, in The Paris Review (Fall 1996), she seemed already to be gazing up from the grave. Bourgeois, who died yesterday at ninety-eight, had been long enjoying a kind of afterlife as a celebrity sculptor, with work that made improbably explicit the themes that had animated her work from the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties—the human body and its vulnerability, the threat of predation, sexuality both grotesque and ever-present.

That afterlife owed quite a lot to a 1982 photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe, which showed a grandmotherly Bourgeois fondling her phallic sculpture Fillette. And when she began in her seventies and eighties to receive major commissions and museum retrospectives, the acclaim seemed as much personal as aesthetic, the exhibitions inspired as much by her engaging biography and confessional personality as by the work itself, which could hardly be reduced to the story of childhood trauma. Longtime followers knew that Bourgeois was much more than Spiderwoman, and in the summer of 1984, at perhaps the peak of her fame, the Review published a small portfolio of her drawings from the fifties—as a kind of reminder, it seems, that though her work was often engrossingly personal it was also, at its best, arcane. Below, a slide show of her two portfolios from The Paris Review:

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

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The View From the Bottom of the Well, Fall 1996

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The View From the Bottom of the Well, Fall 1996

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The View From the Bottom of the Well, Fall 1996

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The View From the Bottom of the Well, Fall 1996

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The View From the Bottom of the Well, Fall 1996

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The View From the Bottom of the Well, Fall 1996

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Drawings from the 1950s, Summer 1984

 

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  1. [...] already hooked me with a gallery of Louise Bourgeois’ black-and-white drawings and a sweetly weird love letter to Ignatius Reilly. And now I have to keep coming back because June [...]

  2. [...] (so far) lifelong closeness with her work. Sitting there in the dark on the thin carpet, her early drawings fascinated, her sculptures unnerved. But without a doubt they all resonated with me. Below is an [...]

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