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
The Freudian dictum holds that where Id was, there Ego shall be. In Louise Bourgeois‘ terms, the successful realization of a sculpture functions to make conscious what was previously unconscious — that is, repressed and inaccessible — and discharge unwelcome or unmanageable instinctual impulses. Her symbolic forms, like the symptoms of the neurotic, are compromise formations between a wish and a defense.
The Destruction of the Father is a critical cathartic work in Louise Bourgeois’ artistic development and psychic life. Completed in 1974, the year after the death of her husband, Robert Goldwater, the work is a synthesis of the soft landscapes, poured forms, and sexually explicit part objects that she made starting in 1960. It is also the artist’s first installation piece and looks forward to the Cells of the 1990s.
Throughout her long career, Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) treated the motif of spiders across many different media, from drawings and prints to monumental outdoor sculpture. The theme was initially associated with her mother, a tapestry restorer, but grew to take on broader associations as a strong female protector against evil. This example, Spider Woman — dating from the last decade of the artist’s life — represents a female spider with a human face, contained within an egg-shaped form. The vibrant scarlet ink is a color that Bourgeois favored in her later work.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.