Louise Bourgeois - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Musée du Louvre, Contrepoint 2: De l’objet d’art à la sculpture – Porcelaines contemporaines, 1 December 2005 – 20 February 2006 (another example exhibited)
    Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, on long term loan from a private collector as of January 2007 (another example exhibited)
    Permanent Collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    ‘Louise Bourgeois: Porcelain Contemporaines’, Connaissance des Arts (Paris), H.S. no. 269, December 2005, pp. 10–11, p. 10 (illustrated)
    M-L. Bernadac and J. Storves et al, Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Paris: Èditions du Centre Pompidou, 2008, p. 30 (illustrated)
    C. Claudel, Sculpture au Féminin, exh. cat., Limoge: Contrario Galerie, 2009, p. 57 (illustrated, there incorrectly dated 1998–99)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “We are all vulnerable in some way, and we are all male and female.” LOUISE BOURGEOIS

    Nature Study, from 2004, is a powerful work by the internationally revered artist Louise Bourgeois. Throughout her long and influential career, Bourgeois was known for her transformations of her own intensely emotional psychological states into extraordinary physical forms. Simultaneously vehicles of sensation and autonomous flesh, her sculptures radiate energy within their three-dimensional space. The artist’s sculptures sit on a fluctuating boundary between personal psychological exploration and the universally symbolic language of the body. They are objects in turmoil, both deeply internal and yet inescapably external. Bourgeois’s highly sensual sculptures embody a provocative fusion of technical sensibility and psychoanalytical tension. Sculptures such as Nature Study, exist as material “literalizations of dreams and nightmares, the beautiful and erotic and the horrendous and neurotic” (C. Leigh, ‘The Earrings of Madame B… : Louise Bourgeois and the Reciprocal Terrain of the Uncanny’, in J. Ekman, Louise Bourgeois, The Locus of Memory, Works 1982–1993, New York, 1994, p.58).

    The present lot is one of Bourgeois’s most highly acclaimed sculptural forms. Nature Study exists as part of an edition of six in porcelain. The sculpture is exquisitely finished and was a technical challenge for the Sèvres porcelain factory (who have worked with a number of contemporary artists). The work is also part of a large and renowned series created in a variety of materials such as marble, bronze, wax and rubber. Examples of the Nature Study have been exhibited in major public collections, for instance at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Despite the multiple variations in form, material and scale that this sculpture has undertaken, in each version, Bourgeois consistently suggested that this sensuous, provocative sculpture was fundamentally aportrait of herself.

    This sculpture is characterised by its ambiguities. Nature Study simultaneously embodies various states of being. Both fragmented and whole, fiercely animal and yet instinctively human, male and female; this is an enigmatic work. Employing what Bourgeois has termed ‘polarisation’, Nature Study illustrates an inherently unstable relationship between being and form. The form’s protruding breasts contradict the phallus between its spread haunches. The sculpture is deliberately set at eye level so its overt and multiple sexuality meets the viewer’s gaze. The ambiguities in Nature Study deepen as the bestial form, with its claws outstretched, also reveals a human vulnerability. Bourgeois’s desire for formal perfection, as with all her work, is driven by.

    The headless figure of Nature Study suggests another theme that is an important motif woven throughout Bourgeois’s work, namely blindness. This state was deeply embedded in childhood memories that lie at the root of Bourgeois’s art. The artist herself described the origin of this theme: “blindness came from the blush I experienced at the side of the people around me, everybody … my father was promiscuous. Ihad to be blind to the mistress who lived with us. I had to be blind to the pain of my mother. I had to be blind to the fact I was a little bit sadistic with my brother. I was blind to the fact that my sister slept with the man across the street. I had an absolute revulsion of everybody – everything and everybody. Mostly for erotic reasons, sexual reasons” (Louise Bourgeois: Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father, London, 2000, p. 179).

    Nature Study is an outstanding example of Louise Bouregois’s ability to bind form to content with both discipline and an extraordinary freedom and imagination. This is how her work can be both intensely private and public at the same time, and can be admired for its sheer beauty while remaining mysterious, even disquieting.

  • 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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Nature Study

1996, cast 2004
biscuit porcelain
73 x 36 x 43 cm (28 3/4 x 14 1/8 x 16 7/8 in)
Stamped with initials, Sèvres mark, stamp-moulder initials, date and letter ‘LB2004 A’ on the reverse of the base. This work is from an edition of six plus two artist’s proofs and was produced by Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, Paris.

£600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for £713,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012