Louise Bourgeois - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, November 17, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Lelong, Zurich
    Peter Blum Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Robert Miller; Paris, Daniel Lelong, Louise Bourgeois Drawings, January 1988, no. 88 (illustrated)
    New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Works on Paper: Territories, September 30 - November 30, 2011
    New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Days Inn, September 4 - October 10, 2014

  • Catalogue Essay

    To fully understand the personal nature of Louise Bourgeois’s extensive practice, it is important to study not only the artist’s famous large-scale bronze and steel sculptures, but also her mastery of mediums beyond three-dimensionality, specifically in drawing. Each executed between 1948 and 2002, the following seven drawings showcase the range of motifs and techniques explored over the course of Bourgeois’s long career, offering a deep look into the breadth of aesthetics and meanings that she continually revisited. They serve as a testament to the personal nature of her work, developed independently of contemporary pressures and influences of the time in which they were conceived. As Josef Helfenstein explained, “…Bourgeois’s drawings perform a function related not to her art but to the artist herself and her purely private emotions. In this sense, her drawings are always autonomous and form a discrete body of work that exists independently of her sculpture.” (Josef Helfenstein, Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations, exh. cat., University Art Museum, Berkeley, 1995, p. 8) For Bourgeois, the medium of drawing existed as a distinct form of expression in its own right, and she continued exploring the medium up until her death in 2010.

    While the works presented here recall imagery found throughout the artist’s overall practice, each of these works stands alone as a finished piece and not as preparatory sketches or plans for later sculptures. In this way, each drawing highlights the artist’s device of repetition, through which she continually turned to the same inspiration and sources. While her sculptures went largely unnoticed until the late 1970s, her drawings were even more clandestine in nature, neither published nor exhibited until a full ten years later. The reveal of such masterworks in the 1980s and 1990s offered an even deeper look into the artist’s mind and practice than did her sculptures. As the artist herself said, “Everything is fleeting, but your drawing will serve as a reminder; otherwise it is forgotten.” (Louise Bourgeois, quoted in Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations, exh. cat., University Art Museum, Berkeley, 1995, p. 21)

    Bourgeois’s early drawings from the 1940s and 1950s were largely based on memories from her childhood. Born in Paris to parents who restored Renaissance tapestries, she was fascinated by the surrounding draped fabrics adorned with plant and floral designs. These feather-like motifs are evident in the Untitled works from 1948, 1949 and 1950, meditatively drawn in hatched lines, varying in density, which in turn create the illusion of highlights and shadows. Lot 164 from 1949 features a unique floral design, hanging from an invisible support at the top of the page with globular shapes extending from a central line. Another drawing from this same year, lot 160, presents another abstract composition on a piece of notebook graph paper, showcasing what appears to be draped fabric, perhaps directly influenced by the hanging tapestries the artist remembered from her childhood home. Most likely drawn from memory, the fabric’s folds are convincing in their variation, demonstrating Bourgeois’s mastery of the medium. This work, alongside an even earlier work from 1947 on blue paper, was exhibited in one of the artist’s first solo shows of her drawings in 1988 at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York and Daniel Lelong’s gallery in Paris. Both works are unique for their surfaces; lot 163, resembling a sketch for one of her famous personnages on blue paper is evidence of Bourgeois’s favorite color, one that appears throughout her oeuvre. “It is the color blue—that is my color—and the color blue means you have left the drabness of day-to-day reality to be transported into…a world of freedom where you can say what you like and what you don’t like”, (Louise Bourgeois, quoted in Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations, exh. cat., University Art Museum, Berkeley, 1995, p. 48) she once stated.

    A later drawing from 1998, lot 166 features a different motif: imperfect, concentric circles in red ink. This work highlights Bourgeois’s interest in geometry, first developed in early adulthood while studying mathematics at the Sorbonne. “Geometry is a safe thing that can never go wrong, a guarantee”, she once said. “It offers a reliable world, a reliable system, and an unchanging frame of reference that will not betray you.” (Louise Bougeois, quoted in Marie-Laure Bernadac, Louise Bourgeois, Paris, 1996, p. 39) This later work falls in a unique place in the artist’s oeuvre when she was particularly fascinated with the regularity of shapes, in contrast to her earlier, feathery drawings. Also rendered in red ink is a late career work from 2002, lot 165, one of the few figurative examples from her body of work. This sheet illustrates childlike figures holding hands, their bodies drawn in dense red with the exception of their faces, which are simplified to cartoonish eyes and grins. Despite its representational qualities, the work bears no resemblance to reality, perhaps relating to an unconscious memory or dream.

    Together, these seven works showcase Bourgeois’s singularity amongst her contemporaries and illustrate both the progression and consistency in her graphic practice. In direct opposition to her sculpture, these drawings seem to have come directly from the artist’s soul, offering a unique look into her inner thoughts and effortless talent. As she herself said of the two practices, “Sculpture needs so much physical involvement that you can rid yourself of your demons through sculpting. Drawing doesn’t have that pretension. Drawing is just a little help.” (Louise Bourgeois, quoted in Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations, exh. cat., University Art Museum, Berkeley, 1995, p. 23)

  • Artist Biography

    Louise Bourgeois

    French-American • 1911 - 2010

    Known for her idiosyncratic style, Louise Bourgeois was a pioneering and iconic figure of twentieth and early twenty-first century art. Untied to an art historical movement, Bourgeois was a singular voice, both commanding and quiet.

    Bourgeois was a prolific printmaker, draftsman, sculptor and painter. She employed diverse materials including metal, fabric, wood, plaster, paper and paint in a range of scale — both monumental and intimate. She used recurring themes and subjects (animals, insects, architecture, the figure, text and abstraction) as form and metaphor to explore the fragility of relationships and the human body. Her artworks are meditations of emotional states: loneliness, jealousy, pride, anger, fear, love and longing.

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signed "L. Bourgeois" lower right
ink on graph paper
8 3/4 x 13 1/4 in. (22.2 x 33.7 cm.)
Executed in 1949.

$30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for $68,750

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2016