15 Mar
Wed / 2017

Inside the MFAH
A Confessional Sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

In March, the Museum celebrates Women’s History Month by highlighting works of art that help you answer the question “Can you name #5WomenArtists?”

French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) put her emotional life at the center of her art by incorporating autobiographical imagery inspired by childhood trauma. Bourgeois was born in France, where her parents ran a tapestry-restoration business. Her childhood home was turbulent: Her flighty father was often unfaithful to her mother, most painfully with the young artist’s English governess.

In 1938 Bourgeois moved to New York with her husband, art historian Robert Goldwater. Convinced that she could not conceive a child, they returned briefly to France to adopt a French boy, Michel. Within a year, in 1940, she had given birth to another son, Jean-Louis, and in 1941 another, Alain.

The Story behind Quarantania I
Bourgeois’s sculpture in the Museum’s Cullen Sculpture Garden, Quarantania I, draws from these experiences. Although she never specifically commented on the title, Quarantania I is a reference to the word “quarantine,” or a recovery from an illness with 40 days spent alone away from other people. Between 1947 and 1953, Bourgeois created the sculpture’s five totem-like figures, which she called Personages, to help exorcize her homesickness. The Personages may represent her acquaintances; perhaps Bourgeois, her husband, and three sons; or possibly their friends and family left behind in France when she moved to the United States. The shapes resemble sewing needles or weaving shuttles—a reference to the tools of her family’s tapestry-restoration trade.

Woman at the Center
The four upright Personages surround—and perhaps protect—the central figure, which can be interpreted as a self-portrait; later, Bourgeois reworked this central figure and gave it the individual title of Woman with Packages, a reference to women’s selfless contributions as the caregivers of the future generation and to the numerous sacrifices involved. Her perception of the human figure is poignant as she explores the relationship of the child to the family, and of the individual to the group.

The human scale of the sculpture and the placement of the figures on a platform on the ground level invite you to interact with the group and to engage in a confessional artistic experience.

Learn more about the #5WomenArtists campaign, and see this sculpture in the Cullen Sculpture Garden—always free to visit, the Cullen Sculpture Garden is open every day.


Comments

Recent Posts

Post Archives

Tag Cloud

18th-century 1970s 19th-century 35mm 5womenartists abstract activity african-art a-history-of-photography akan american american-art ancient and angelica-kauffmann animals animation anna-atkins antiquities architecture archive art art-books artist artists art-of-the-islamic-worlds arts-of-india azaleas bayou bayou-bend bayou-bend-christmas-village bend bestowing-beauty biblical biography book british british-arrows british-art broadways-amazing-mastersons buffalo-bayou-park-cistern campus campus-redevelopment cannes carroll-sterling-masterson chair chef chinese-art christmas christmas-fun cinema cisternrain classic classic-films coffee collection color colors-of-the-oasis community concrete conservation contemporary-art contemporary-arts-museum-houston contemporary-film contesting-modernity countess cullen-sculpture-garden culture curator curators-picks dance decorative-arts degas degas-a-new-vision design digital documentary documents dont-blink-robert-frank drama drawings dutch-art electronic elizabeth-i england e-records exhibition exhibitions eye-on-houston family family-programs fashion fashion-fusion feast festival fiber-arts field film films flowers food francis-bacon free french french-art fun future futuremfah gainsborough gallery gallery-interpretation garden garden-paradise gardens george-iii glassell glassell-school-of-art google-art-project google-arts-and-culture habsburg-splendor-masterpieces-from-viennas-imperial-collections halloween happyhour happy-new-year harris-masterson-iii henry-viii hirsch-library history history-book-club holiday holiday-fun hollywood home homemfah homeso-different-so-appealing houston howe hurricane-harvey icaa ikat ima-hogg impressionism indian-art instagram interactive ipads islamic italian japanese-art john-biggers joshua-reynolds kenwood kids king kodak kusama latin latin-america latin-american latin-american-art latino-art latin-wave latinx laura-israel learning-and-interpretation love mail manet maria-fernanda-cardoso mastersons mayan-art media meditation mending-craft-and-community mexican-film mexican-modernism mexico mfa-cafe mfah mfah-book-club mfah-films mfah-in-the-community mfah-staff modern modernism movie movies movies-houstonians-love mueck mueckmfah museum museum-education music native-american-art new nhprc now-on-view now-playing organic oscar-de-la-renta oscars painting paintings paint-the-revolution paris paul-thomas-anderson peacock-in-the-desert-the-royal-arts-of-jodhpur-india peacockmfah persian persian-art photographs photography picasso portrait portraits pose prints prints-and-drawings programs queen-victoria radical rebel-jester-mystic-poet recipe rembrandt-van-rijn rienzi ron-mueck rothko sampler school sculpted-in-steel sculpture self-portrait shadow-monsters shepherds short-films slow-art-day snail snapshot spain spanish-art spring style summer technology texas textiles thanksgiving the the-al-sabah-collection theater the-glamour-and-romance-of-oscar-de-la-renta trivia tudors-to-windsors valentines-day venezuelan-art video vincent-van-gogh vincent-van-gogh-his-life-in-art virtual wagner-garden-carpet watercolor winter women-filmmakers womens-history-month works-on-paper yoga zoom