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Louise Bourgeois’s Artistic Training: Paris-New York

Émilie Bouvard


Like many other women artists, Louise Bourgeois’s artistic training was a lengthy and convoluted process. She started at her parents’ tapestry repair workshop before studying at several Parisian academies in the 1930s and in New York in the 1940s, all the while raising her three young sons. For her this protracted time period was defined by two singularities that were specific to her. Her training was more intellectual than material, and was influenced by her close relationships with her teachers – it was a mental journey. It was also a matter of finding her “personal style”, whether this was through a specific method, process or preferred medium. It was only during her exile in New York in the 1940s that she created her first sculpted pieces, in a time when non-Western “fetishes” were an increasing topic of interest in artistic – mainly Surrealist – circles. Her transition to sculpture and permanent withdrawal from painting are, in the author’s opinion, linked to her final digression and training experience at William Hayter’s Atelier 17 in New York in 1946 and 1947.


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