Louise Bourgeois in the studio of her apartment at 142 East 18th Street, ca. 1946. Gelatin silver print, 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (5.7 x 5.7 cm). © The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Exhibition Dates: April 12–August 7, 2022
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Gallery, Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, Floor 1
Louise Bourgeois: Paintings is the first comprehensive exhibition of paintings by the celebrated artist, produced between her arrival in New York from Paris in 1938 and her turn away from the medium by 1949. While Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) is best known today as a sculptor, it is in this early body of work—created in the decade spanning World War II—that her mature artistic voice emerged, establishing a core group of visual motifs that she would continue to explore and develop over the course of her decades-long career. The exhibition opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 12, 2022 sheds light on a lesser-known, but formative chapter in the artist’s practice.
The exhibition is made possible by The Modern Circle, The Easton Foundation, and the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust.
“Louise Bourgeois’s early paintings are the foundation of her extraordinary artistic oeuvre,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This exhibition at The Met marks the first significant gathering of her works on canvas in forty years and presents the rare opportunity to explore a little-known period of an iconic artist’s career. The display of this powerful, complex body of work will provide surprises for all, even for those familiar with her sculptures and installations.”
Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chair of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met, added, “To date, it is not widely known that Bourgeois was active as a painter in New York for ten years, a period when the city became a vital international hub amidst critical debates around painting. This exhibition reveals the foundational DNA of the artist’s development of themes that would subsequently burgeon into three dimensions, and preoccupy her for the remainder of her long career.”
Bourgeois’s paintings can be considered self-portraits: serving to identify and locate her, while also evoking the sense of displacement that accompanied her move to the United States on the eve of World War II. This early body of work reflects the artist’s intimate knowledge of 20th century European avant-garde movements, especially modernist architecture and Surrealism, as well as New York’s rapidly evolving art scene of the 1940s. Also evident is her interest in French and Italian Renaissance conventions for representing three-dimensional space and architecture, which she studied in The Met collection of drawings and prints. The exhibition includes the hybrid woman-house of the “Femme Maison” series, as well as early works such as Confrérie (1940), a selection of abstract works in oil (1942–1944), and a group of later paintings, which anticipate her turn to three-dimensional work.
After its debut at The Met, the exhibition will travel to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), September 7, 2022–January 1, 2023.
Louise Bourgeois: Paintings is organized by Clare Davies, Associate Curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Yale University Press.
The catalogue is made possible by The Modern Circle.