Louise Bourgeois: Childhood Memories

"Everything I do was inspired by my early life."


Louise Bourgeois had a close relationship with her mother, before her mother’s death in 1932, when Louise was just 21. This close relationship was in part due to her father’s ten-year affair with her live-in tutor, Sadie Gordon Richmond. The discovery of this incident at age 11 caused Louise great psychological trauma and would go on to impact Louise’s life forever as well as define her body of work.


Untitled No.4 of 4, from Child Abuse: A Project by Louise Bourgeois, 1982 © The Easton Foundation


Louise considered the affair a betrayal by her father and being used as a pawn by her mother, for the latter’s toleration of the affair. She named her landmark 1982 book project at Artforum, Child Abuse – the first time she revealed her story behind her iconic works to the public. This release also coincided with her retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a first for a female artist.


The Destruction of the Father, 1974 © The Easton Foundation


For the rest of her life, Louise drew on her childhood memories and experiences as the main source of inspiration. Making art was her sole form of comfort, expression, psychological release and mental reparation. Amongst others, she channelled fear, jealousy, anger, anxiety and loneliness through paintings, drawings, prints, installations and sculptures.


"My subject is the rawness of the emotions, the devastating effect of the emotions you go through."


Her creations were honest, brutal, intimate, raw and reflective. Elements from home, the human body and spiders were incorporated into her work. Personal items and domestic objects placed in cell-like structures represented the feeling of being trapped in a house. The human body represented vulnerability, intimacy and power. Her iconic spiders were a portrayal of her mother, whom she considered a protective figure.


When her father died unexpectedly in 1951, Louise fell into a deep depressed and remained in psychoanalytic therapy for 30 years. It is believed that Sigmund Freud's theory held true for Louise - that early childhood experiences shape our adult personality and behaviour. 


Louise Bourgeois inside Articulated Lair, 1986 © The Easton Foundation


"Some of us are so obsessed with the past that we die of it. It is the attitude of the poet who never finds the lost heaven and it is really the situation of artists who work for a reason that nobody can quite grasp. They might want to reconstruct something of the past to exorcise it. It is that the past for certain people has such a hold and such a beauty..."



 Read Louise Bourgeois: Femininity

 Read Louise Bourgeois: Solitude

 Read Louise Bourgeois: Maman