Until her recent death in 2010, Louise Bourgeois was a fascinating figure in the international art scene. Her iconic, gigantic spiders had been installed inside and outside some of the most famous exhibition spaces in the world, while her other works continue to attract droves of followers and admirers. Bourgeois managed to develop a unique visual language that combined anxiety, sexuality, sensuality and her own inimitable personality within sculptures, installations, quilt-like textiles and of course the drawings that were such a constant feature in her life. Executed in 1949, Untitled is an important picture which was included in several lifetime exhibitions of the artist and which reveals the early development of her unique iconography: this drawing appears to show interlocking tresses of hair which are like a horse's tail or mane. Here and there, small points like tiny eyes appear, adding a mysterious and uncanny physiology to the image, which appears to comprise strands of material that have taken on a life of their own, echoing the Surreal sculptures of Alberto Giacometti while prefiguring those epic spiders of her later career. The three-dimensionality of the looping strands in Untitled reinforce a sculptural dimension to the picture which is all the more appropriate in a work dating from 1949, as it was during the course of that year that Bourgeois was given her first one-woman show of sculptures.
Bourgeois created her drawings as a result of an almost compulsive need to record her state of mind. She explained the importance of drawings to her as a means of capturing the fleeting feelings and concepts that she had either at night or during the day: 'Drawings are thought feathers, they are ideas that I seize in mid flight and put down on paper,' she said. 'All my thoughts are visual' (Bourgeois, quoted in F. Morris (ed.), Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., London, 2007, p. 104). Nowhere is this more clear than in this image of hair, a material that is linked to the looms of the tapestry conservation business of her father in her native France as well as to her own hair, recorded in photographs from the time. So long that it fell far and away down her back, recalling a fairytale character, Bourgeois' hair was an intrinsic part of her past, her personality and the persona that she projected. 'Hair is simply protection women are wrapped in,' she would say. 'Hair is like a caterpillar in a cocoon. But hair is more friendly in that the cocoon eliminates the subject. Silk, hair, wool are everywhere. Skins are put together in a methodical fashion, whereas hair is unruly and free. It has to be restrained and braided' (Bourgeois, quoted in ibid., p. 153).