The title 32 (painted 1947) references the year Louise Bourgeois’s mother, Josephine, passed away after a long illness. As a teenager, Bourgeois often served as her mothers nurse, and the two were very close. The death precipitated the first of the artist’s two suicide attempts and catalyzed recurring periods of profound depression. In 1959, during an intense period of analysis, she wrote: “after she was dead I said that at least she would not suffer anymore… I put myself in her bed and forbade people to come in her room.” At the center of this paining, an ornate funerary bier is situated as if onstage and illuminated by a spotlight. The curved banister at lower left and window at center right suggest an interior, but the sense of defined space collapses under the blood-red striations arching across the background of the picture plane. An earlier stages of the painting, the enigmatic form at left was a more realistically rendered self-portrait.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City