Lot 33
  • 33

Louise Bourgeois

Estimate
1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
Sold
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Description

  • Louise Bourgeois
  • The Winged Figure
  • signed with initials, dated 93 and numbered 4/6

  • bronze, paint and stainless steel
  • 70 x 37 1/4 x 12 in. 177.8 x 94.6 x 30.5 cm.

Provenance

Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Galeria Ramis F. Barquet, New York
Private Collection, Mexico
Danese Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1999

Exhibited

New York, Peridot Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures, October 1950 (wood version)
Santa Fe, Bellas Artes, Masterworks of Contemporary Sculpture, Paintings and Drawings: 1930s-1990s, May - September 1991 (wood version)
Houston, Texas Gallery, Summer Group Show, July - August 1992 (wood version)
Monterrey, Galeria Ramis Barquet, Louise Bourgeois, October - November 1993, illustrated in color (ed. no. 4/6)
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures, Environments, Dessins 1938 - 1995, June 1995 - March 1996 (another example)
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria; Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Bourgeois, October 1995 - April 1996, cat. no. 14 (ed. no. unknown)
Monterrey, MARCO; Seville, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contempóraneo; Mexico City, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Louise Bourgeois, June 1995 - August 1996, pl. 15, p. 54, illustrated (ed. no. 4/6)
Paris, Fondation Cartier, Comme un Oiseau, June - October 1996 (another example)
Westford, Gallery Joseloff, Harry Jack Gray Center, University of Hartford, Louise Bourgeois: The Forties and Fifties, November - December 1996 (another example)
Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, November 1997 - January 1998, cat. no. 23, p. 58, illustrated in color (ed. no. unknown)
Hanover, Dartmouth College, Jaffe-Friede & Strauss Galleries, Louise Bourgeois, February - March 1999 (ed. no. unknown)
Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Louise Bourgeois, December 1999 - February 2000 (ed. no. unknown)
Kyungki-do, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Bourgeois, September - November 2000, p. 113, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
New York, C&M Arts, Louise Bourgeois: The Personages, April - June 2001 (ed. no. unknown)
Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Colour of my Dreams: Surrealism and Revolution in Art, May - September 2011 (another example)

Literature

Patricia C. Johnson, "A sensual thoughtful 'Summer'," Houston Chronicle, July 29, 1992, Section D, pp. 1 and 10, illustrated (wood version)
Exh. Cat., Saint Louis, The Saint Louis Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois The Personages, 1994, cat. no. 9, p. 46, illustrated (wood version) 
Exh. Cat., Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Museum, Louise Bourgeois: The Locus of Memory, 1982-1993, 1994, p. 19, illustrated (1950 Peridot Gallery exhibition photograph) (incorrectly labeled 1949)
Jerry Gorovoy and Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi, Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, Milan, 1997, p. 105, illustrated (wood version) (1950 Peridot Gallery exhibition photograph)
Exh. Cat., Urbana-Champaign, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (and traveling), Louise Bourgeois: The Early Work, 2002, cat. no. 29, p. 83, illustrated (another example) and p. 30 and back cover, illustrated (wood version) (1950 Peridot Gallery exhibition photograph)
Robert Storr, Paulo Herkenhoff and Allan Schwartzman, Louise Bourgeois, London, 2003, p. 26, illustrated (ed. no. unknown)
Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern (and traveling), Louise Bourgeois: A Retrospective, 2007, fig. 201, p. 212, illustrated in color (wood version)
Claude Pommereau, ed., Louise Bourgeois au Centre Pompidou: Beaux Arts Éditions, Paris, 2008, p. 30, illustrated (wood version)
Suzanne Kotz, ed., A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 2008, p. 109, illustrated (ed. no. 1/6)

Catalogue Note

The Winged Figure is the quintessential testament to Louise Bourgeois' singular focus on the psychological and the symbolic as the dominant imperative within the aesthetics of form and content. In the early 1940s and continuing into the 1950s, Bourgeois began her first foray into sculpture with the seminal series of Personages. The power and beauty of works such as The Winged Figure amply demonstrate this to be Bourgeois' ideal medium, bringing life to her creative impulses. Indeed, the animistic force and intuitive impact of Bourgeois' Personages is the key to the central elements that flow through the entire oeuvre of this premier sculptress of the 20th century. The subsequent bronze versions of the early wood Personages attest to the artist's continued commitment to the series and their perpetual relevance to her work. In the artist's own words, her early totemic figures "are the expression, in abstract terms, of emotions and states of awareness. Eighteenth century painters made `conversation pieces'; my sculptures might be called `confrontation pieces.'" (Walker Art Center, Design Quarterly, Minneapolis, 1954, no. 30, p. 18)

Dissatisfied with the unrealistic two-dimensionality of painting, Bourgeois ventured into sculpture in search of a greater expressiveness and heightened experience. Bourgeois relished the tangibility and concreteness of the three-dimensional which has a greater reality for the artist and viewer alike. In his insightful text for the 2002 exhibition of Bourgeois' work from this period, Josef Helfenstein highlighted the extent to which the artist integrated the individual wood figures within her home, carrying them from their initial isolation on the rooftop of her Manhattan home to the confines of her apartment and out to her family's Connecticut home. Bourgeois did not work in a separate studio – instead, her work was both alienated and then re-submerged into her daily existence as wife to art historian Robert Goldwater and mother to three boys. (Exh. Cat., Champaign, Krannert Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: the Early Work, 2002, pp.12-19) This tension inherent to their creation gives full meaning to the artist's own description of the Personages in 1954:  "My work grows from the duel between the isolated individual and the shared awareness of the group." (Walker Art Center, p. 18)

The Winged Figure is a pivotal figure in Bourgeois' progress from the monolithic and rigidly vertical figures of the earliest Personages such as The Three Graces (1947) toward the more complex multiplicity and fragmentation of Femme Volage and Spiral Woman of the early 1950s. The two white lines that undulate in parallel sinuous waves add a further dimension of universal symbolic language at its essence. This evolution was, as always, a reflection of the tangled psychological motivations behind Bourgeois' art in which form and symbolic content was governed by intense emotion.

Bourgeois was living in Paris when she met and married Robert Goldwater in 1938, moving to New York City the same year. Goldwater opened a world of contacts and experiences for Bourgeois among the New York art community of scholars, curators, artists and European émigrés. The couple shared an affinity for the profound importance of indigenous and nativist cultures. Goldwater published a pioneering monograph, Primitivism in Modern Painting, in 1938 and was appointed the first director of the Museum of Primitive Art in New York in 1957. Bourgeois was one of many modernist artists clearly drawn to African and Oceanic art forms and ritual objects, responding intuitively to the simplicity of form, variety of natural materials and the fundamental immediacy of tribal objects. While the Personages have a wide range of sources, including utilitarian objects and objects of war, Bourgeois' totemic forms have a strong psychic connection with tribal artifacts and fetishes, combining this influence with the verticality of the modernist skyscrapers that surrounded Bourgeois on her East 18th Street rooftop while she worked on the earliest Personages. Bourgeois combined these basic forms in pairs or groups, and gained great inspiration from installing the individual sculptures in varied arrangements like figures on a stage. Bourgeois reveled in the myriad tensions and dialogues between individual works, seeing them as shifting parts in an overall whole that mirrored the complexity of human existence.

The elaboration of the group led to freer and subtler variations within the individual works, such as the horizontal appendages which counterbalance the monolithic nature of The Winged Figure, giving it undeniable presence and impact.  The emotional power of Bourgeois' objects stems directly from their role as tools with which she confronted the turbulence and contradictions of her interior life. Her artistic themes are deeply rooted in her psychological biography which began with a strained childhood complicated by paternal infidelities and maternal illnesses. Bourgeois also struggled with the inherent conflicts of feminism in universal terms and in personal terms, societal norms versus individual choice, anxiety and depression, passivity versus action. The Personages express a wealth of shifting moods and symbolism concisely chronicled by Josef Helfenstein as an array of opposing metaphors and fractured themes that Bourgeois described as "the drama of one among the many" (Ibid, p. 18)  Helfenstein juxtaposed various maternal, sexual and aggressive themes as well as the dark themes of "dependence, dominance and one-sided communication (The Listening One, Brother and Sister); deception and helplessness (The Blind Leading the Blind); and death and the exorcism of fear and death (The Tomb of a Young Person)" against the triumphant "utopia of escape (The Winged Figure)." (Champaign, p. 10)

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