Louise Bourgeois


Not on view



Painted wood

Overall: 84 × 29 1/4 × 31 1/4in. (213.4 × 74.3 × 79.4 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Gift of an anonymous donor

Rights and reproductions
© The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Louise Bourgeois’s work frequently explores the relationship of the individual to the group and, specifically, of the child to the family. After emigrating from Paris to New York in 1938, Bourgeois soon embarked on a series of carved and painted wood sculptures, which she called “Personages,” that evoked the upright human form. The sculptures, she explained, were a way of recreating all the people she had left behind in her homeland. Quarantania, an early example from this series, consists of five elongated forms huddled on a pedestal, in a “duel,” as she put it, “between the isolated individual and the shared awareness of the group.” She alluded in part to her own childhood: the group in Quarantania not only resembles human figures, but also sewing needles or weaving shuttles, the tools of her family’s tapestry restoration trade. At the same time, the abstract character of the forms summons forth a totemic or mythic presence.


  • Where We Are, Kids, Spanish

    Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania, 1941

    Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania, 1941


    Mark Joshua Epstein: Nos encontramos frente a la obra Quarantania de la artista Louise Bourgeois. ¿Qué preguntas tienen acerca de esta obra?

    Estudiante 2: Me recuerda a los edificios altos, quizás a los rascacielos. 

    Estudiante 1: Me recuerda a los utensilios de escritura y quizás también quisiera simplificarlos y convertirlos en una escultura.

    Mark Joshua Epstein: Solo para que sepan algo sobre la artista y su obra, les cuento: Louise Bourgeois nació en Francia y realizó esta escultura en 1941, tres años después de emigrar a Nueva York, así que se había mudado aquí tres años antes con su esposo. Ella había adoptado un niño en 1939 en Francia y luego la pareja tuvo dos hijos en poco tiempo. Me pregunto si ahora, al mirar la escultura, ven algo que pudiera representar a una familia.

    Estudiante 1: Sí, veo que es como un grupo de personas simplificadas, de alguna manera. En el del medio, veo dos agujeritos en el frente que se parecen un poco a un par de ojos.

    Estudiante 2: Dentro de algunas de las piezas hay círculos y quizás eso represente las caras de las personas.

    Mark Joshua Epstein: La familia de Louise Bourgeois tenía en Francia un negocio de restauración de alfombras y tapices, donde los arreglaban cuando se rompían, y la artista dijo sobre ellos que eran agujas, agujas de coser. ¿Alguien ve eso en la obra?

    Estudiante 1: Ahora sí, porque los agujeros podrían representar el ojo de la aguja, pero luego la convirtió en una persona.

  • Where We Are, Kids

    Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania, 1941

    Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania, 1941


    Mark Joshua Epstein: We are looking at the artwork Quarantania by the artist Louise Bourgeois. What are your questions about this artwork?

    Student 1: Well I don’t even know what it is. They’re all kind of the same shape, but they’re different.

    Student 2: It reminds me of tall buildings, maybe skyscrapers.

    Student 3: It reminds me of writing utensils, and maybe they also chose to simplify writing utensils and make it a sculpture.

    Mark Joshua Epstein: Just to give you some information about the artist and the artworkLouise Bourgeois was born in France, and this sculpture was made in 1941, which is three years after she emigrated to New York, so she had moved here three years earlier with her husband. She had adopted a child in 1939 back in France and then had two children in quick succession. I'm wondering now as you look at the sculpture if you see anything that could represent a family.

    Student 1: I kind of see that it's like a bunch of simplified people, kind of. I see in the middle one in front there are two little holes which kind of look like eyes.

    Student 2: I can see in some of the pieces there are circles inside, and maybe that's representing people's faces.

    Mark Joshua Epstein: Louise Bourgeois's family in France had a business where they would restore carpets and tapestries, so they would fix them when they got broken. So she has spoken before about these being needles, sewing needles. Does anybody see that in the piece?

    Student 1: Now I do, because the holes may represent the eye of the needle, but then she made it into a person.

Louise Bourgeois
32 works

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