Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)

Breasted Woman

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Breasted Woman
stamped with the artist's initials, number and cast date 'L.B. 6/6 1991' (on the reverse)
bronze, paint and stainless steel
54 x 12 x 12 in. (137.2 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1949-1950 and cast in 1991. This work is number six from an edition of six plus one artist's proof.
The artist
Cheim & Read Gallery, New York
Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by Mrs. Sydell Miller, 1998
Louise Bourgeois: Femme Maison, exh. cat., Chicago, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1981, n.p., no. 12 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois: Retrospektive 1947-1984, exh. cat., Maeght Lelong Zürich, 1985 (installation view of wood version illustrated in color on the cover).
Louise Bourgeois: The Locus of Memory, Works 1982-1993, exh. cat., New York, Brooklyn Museum, 1994, p. 19, fig. 5 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures, Environnements, Dessins, 1938-1995, exh. cat., Paris, Muse´e d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1995, p. 37 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
M.-L. Bernadac, Louise Bourgeois, Paris, 1996 and 2006, pp. 60-61 (1996); p. 86 (2006) (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, exh. cat., Japan, Yokohama Museum of Art, 1997, p. 117 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, exh. cat., Milan, Fondazione Prada, 1997, pp. 93 and 105 (studio view and installation view of wood version illustrated).
R. Crone and P. G. Schaesberg, Louise Bourgeois: The Secret of the Cells, Germany, 1998 and 2011, p. 61, fig. 96 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois chez Karsten Greve, exh. cat., Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, 1999, pp. 56-57 and 216 (another example illustrated in color).
Louise Bourgeois: Memory and Architecture, exh. cat., Barcelona, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1999, p. 41, fig. 27 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
M.-L. Bernadac and H.-U. Obrist, eds., Louise Bourgeois: Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 351 and 354 (another example illustrated).
Blickachsen 3. Skulpturen im Kurpark Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe, exh. cat., Duisburg, Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, 2001, p. 23 (another example illustrated in color).
Louise Bourgeois: The Personages, exh. cat., New York, C & M Arts, 2001, pp. 58-59 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois: The Early Work, exh. cat., Urbana-Champaign, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, 2002, pp. 21 and 30, fig. 12 and 21 (studio view and installation view of wood version illustrated and illustrated on the back cover).
R. Storr, P. Herkenhoff and A. Schwartzman, Louise Bourgeois, London, 2003, p. 56 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., London, Tate Modern, 2007, p. 230, fig. 217 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 2007, p. 244, fig. 247 (installation view of wood version illustrated).
Galerie Karsten Greve: 40 Years, Cologne; 20 Years, Paris; 10 Years, St. Moritz, exh. cat., Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, 2009, p. 126 (installation view of another example illustrated in color).
Louise Bourgeois: Personages, exh. cat., Seoul, Kukje Gallery, 2012, pp. 18, 31 and 39 (studio view and installation view of wood version illustrated).
R. Storr, Intimate Geometries: The Art and Life of Louise Bourgeois, New York, 2016, pp. 148 and 213 (wood version illustrated in installation view and in color).
New York, Peridot Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures, October 1950 (wood version exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Penthouse Show: Selections from the Art Lending Service, February-April 1962 (wood version exhibited as Attentive Figure).
New York, Xavier Fourcade Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpture 1941-1953. Plus One New Piece, September-October 1979 (wood version exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and Akron Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective, November 1982-January 1984, p. 59, pl. 56 (wood version exhibited and illustrated).
Boston, Grossman Gallery, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Morris: Undercurrents: Rituals and Translations, November-December 1987, n.p., no. 9 (wood version exhibited).
Zurich, Galerie Lelong, Louise Bourgeois: 100 Zeichnungen 1939-1989, September-October 1989 (wood version exhibited).
Frankfurter Kunstverein; Munich, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Lyon, Musée d’art Contemporain; Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies; Bern, Kunstmuseum and Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum, Louise Bourgeois, December 1989-July 1991, p. 59 (Barcelona and Frankfurt); pp. 61, 70 and 178 (Lyon), no. 15 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Santa Monica, Linda Cathcart Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Bronze Sculpture and Drawings, February-March 1990 (another example exhibited).
Vienna, Galerie Krinzinger Wien, Louise Bourgeois 1939-89 Skulpturen und Zeichnungen, May-June 1990 (wood version exhibited).
Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois: Bronzes of the 1940s and 1950s, October-November 1990 (another example exhibited).
Washington, D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts, Expanding Visions: Women's Caucus for Art Conference, February-March 1991 (another example exhibited).
Yonkers, Hudson River Museum, Experiencing Sculpture: The Figurative Presence in America, 1870-1990, September 1991-February 1992 (another example exhibited).
New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Abstract-Figurative, June-August 1993 (another example exhibited).
Santa Fe, Laura Carpenter Fine Art, Louise Bourgeois Personages, 1940s / Installations, 1990s, July-September 1993 (another example exhibited).
New York, Barbara Mathes Gallery, Sculpture: The Figure Transformed, October-December 1994.
Saint Louis Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: The Personages, June-August 1994, pp. 35 and 55, no. 18 (another example exhibited and illustrated; installation view of wood version illustrated).
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Louise Bourgeois: Skulpturen und Installationen, September-October 1994, p. 24, no. 13 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, From Beyond the Pale, December 1994-February 1995, p. 85 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Louise Bourgeois, October-December 1995 (another example exhibited).
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria and Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Bourgeois, November 1995-April 1996, p. 17, no. 13 (wood version exhibited and illustrated).
Minneapolis, Montgomery Glasoe Fine Art, Body of Work, April-June 1996 (another example exhibited).
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey; Seville, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo and Mexico City, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Escultura de Louise Bourgeois: La Elegancia de la Ironía, June 1995-August 1996, pp. 15, 52 and 90 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Salzburg, Museum der Moderne Rupertinum, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures and Objects, July-October 1996 (another example exhibited).
23ª Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, Louise Bourgeois, October-December 1996, pp. 240 and 507 (illustrated in color).
Rio de Janeiro, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Louise Bourgeois, February-April 1997, pp. 10, 16 and 18 (illustrated in color).
Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Frauenmacht und Mannerherrschaft im Kulturvergleich, November 1997-March 1998, p. 174 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Cambridge, MIT List Visual Arts Center; Miami Art Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation, April 1998-April 1999, p. 115, pl. 11 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Strasbourg, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School, December 1999-February 2000 (another example exhibited).
Peoria Art Guild, Works from the Marsha S. Glazer Collection, January-March 2004 (another example exhibited).
Santa Barbara, University Art Museum, University of California, Out of Site: Selections from the Marsha S. Glazer Collection, January-February 2005, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, National Academy Museum and Phoenix Art Museum, Surrealism USA, February-September 2005, p. 166, no. 125 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Louise Bourgeois. La Famille, March-June 2006, pp. 107 and 216 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Reykjavik, National Gallery of Iceland, Louise Bourgeois: Femme, May-September 2011, pp. 51 and 91, no. 5 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada; Edmonton, Art Gallery of Alberta and Toronto, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Louise Bourgeois, April 2011-August 2013 (wood version exhibited).
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Moscow, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells, February 2015-February 2017 (another example exhibited).

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

Conceived in the late 1940s, Louise Bourgeois’ Breasted Woman belongs to a group of sculptures known as her Personages—evocative works now widely regarded by scholars as among the most outstanding contributions to the history of sculpture in the 20th century. These striking forms are deeply personal works which reflect the complex emotional life of the artist. Executed when the artist was living away from her native France in New York, the totemic figure deals with themes of life, love, loss and the maternal nature of femininity. Widely exhibited and extensively cited in the scholarly literature about the artist, Breasted Woman has become one of Bourgeois most well-known and celebrated forms.

Standing just over four feet tall, this totemic figure is comprised of a vertical arrangement of protruding, semi-biological forms. Emanating from the metal base, this progression begins with two, almost spherical objects, upon which the other forms are placed. Gradually elongating as the eye moves up the work, these elements become more and more biomorphic before, at the mid-point, one of the sections splits into two adjoining parts, thus becoming the most apparent breast-like of the elements of the work’s title. Continuing to the upper portion of the work, the elements become large and flatter—more mask-like even—until they are crowned with a magnificent triangular pediment which is open at its core to reveal a further dimension—that of space.

Executed in bronze (one of the most traditional sculptural mediums), this work possess both physical and metaphorical historical resonance in abundance. The bronze gives the sculpture an elegance and majesty that is common with the great sculptures of history, while the high textured surface of the wooden original remains, imbuing it with a tactility and intimacy that can only come from a hand created work. Conceived in 1949-1950, Bourgeois first executed Breasted Woman in wood, keeping it in her own private collection until 1991 when she cast the subsequent edition of six (plus one artist’s proof) in bronze. The importance of this particular form to the artist can thus be seen not only in the lifelong relationship that she formed with the object, but also her ultimate ambition to preserve it in bronze.

Breasted Woman was conceived during a pivotal decade for the artist. She moved to New York from Paris in 1938 with her new husband, the distinguished art historian Robert Goldwater. During the subsequent decade, her life had undergone great upheaval as not only had she become a mother, but she also suffered from periods of severe homesickness after being separated from her friends and family in France. Here she was, in a new city and surrounded almost exclusively by the predominantly male Abstract Expressionists. Thus her upright forms “reflect not only the forms of the surrounding skyscrapers, and therefore the vocabulary of modernism, but also Bourgeois’s relationship to people she had left behind in France…” (F. Morris, Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2007, p. 208). Indeed Bourgeois herself described the Personages that she produced during this decade as the physical manifestations of the spirit of the people she had left behind. One art historian, Mignon Nixon, going so far as to say that Bourgeois “inscribed a work of mourning at the level of making, implying, through physical cutting, a psychical process of determined and painstaking achievement” (M. Nixon, “Psychoanalysis, Louise Bourgeois and Reconstruction,” quoted in F. Morris, ibid., p. 229).

Bourgeois’ sculptures time and again underscore the artist’s penchant for autobiographical references and her role within her family. In her youth, Bourgeois shared an intimate bond with her mother—a woman she described as “deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and useful” and she was greatly affected by her mother’s illness and untimely death in 1932 (L. Bourgeois, Ode à ma mere, Paris, 1995, p. 62). The artist had a much more difficult relationship with her father, a charming philanderer, whose inappropriate advances toward various women and rather conspicuous 10-year affair with Bourgeois’ English tutor led to a household ruptured by secrets, deception, infidelity and wounded feelings. Given Bourgeois’ background, the tall upright form captured in Breasted Woman thus gains additional meaning as it suggests a woman of confidence, even in the face of difficulty.

Her father’s duplicitousness left Bourgeois with the lasting impression that men were characteristically weak, yet it also propelled her lifelong search for father figures amongst her artistic role models, which included Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brâncu?i. With their vibrant presences and thoughtful installations, Bourgeois’ sculptures show the influence of all three artists; however, the sculpture’s anthropomorphized look and ability to convey emotion and wit through skilled manipulation of physical form most closely approaches Brâncu?i’s expressive legacy, and such iconic works as The Bird in Space and Princess X.

Breasted Woman is a powerful work from what is probably one of the most significant bodies of work in twentieth century sculpture. Her opposing dualities—such as comfort and discomfort, attraction and aversion—explores how those opposing forces play out not just in familial drama, but also in the grander scope of humanity. As Bourgeois scholar Penelope Vinding succinctly explains, “Despite the personal starting-point [sic], Bourgeois’ works are rooted within a shared human horizon of experience. We recognize the existential themes like life/death, man/woman, love/hate, loneliness/belonging etc.; themes that are part of every society, and which are associated with strong, often ambivalent emotions. Bourgeois’ personal drama is only the core around which they are played out” (P. Vinding, “The Space and the Body,” in Louise Bourgeois: Life into Art, Louisiana, 2003, p. 12).

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