When Louise was growing up, she was often recruited to help restore these tapestries during the weekends. At the age of twelve she would draw in the missing areas of damaged tapestries. In her teen years, Louise attended Lycee Fenelon in Paris. Her childhood was marred by an unhappy home life. Louise was very close to her mother but her father was unfaithful to her mother. His mistress lived with the family creating a great deal of tension in their home life. Louise was also unable to live up to her father's expectations.
In 1930, she attended the Sorbonne, where she studied math and philosophy. But,when her mother passed away in 1932, Louise was inspired to switch to studying art. From 1934 to 1938 she studied at various schools including the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Academie Ranson, the Academie Julian and several others. Although she initially studied painting, Louise was told she should become a sculptor. She began to draw on the upsetting experiences of her childhood as her creative inspiration. Her first exhibition was in the Salon d'Automne in 1938. Louise also opened a print shop in a section of her father's tapestry shop. Her father did not support her choice to become an artist but he did allow her the use of part of the family's shop. It was in the print shop that she met her future husband, American art historian, Robert Goldman. They married in 1938 and Louise emigrated to New York where her husband was employed at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts as an art professor.
|A young Louise Bourgeois. 1946|
Over the years, her art became a sort of therapy for Louise, in which she dealt with the anger over her father's infidelity to her mother and the presence of his mistress in her life. Spirals, spiders and cages are several of the forms Louise used to express certain ideas. For example, the spiral was termed by Louise as "a twist. As a child, after washing tapestries in the river, I would turn and twist and ring them. . . Later I would dream of my father's mistress. I would do it in my dreams by ringing her neck. The spiral - I love the spiral - represents control and freedom."
Spiders first appeared in Louise's work in the 1940's but it wasn't until the 1990's that she created the spider sculptures for which she is famous. The spider represented her mother who was her best friend. "The spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver...Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."
Accompanying this text are the unique illustrations of artist Isabelle Arsenault, done in ink, pencil, pastel, watercolor and Photoshop. This is a lovely picture book that captures the special talent of Louise Bourgeois.
Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky
New York: Abrams Books For Young Readers 2016