Thursday May 26, 2005
Like an oversized version of a character from a famous children's nursery rhyme, Louise Bourgeois' (b. 1911) monumental bronze sculpture Maman has been purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and recently erected on its exterior Plaza. The 30-foot-tall spider, designed in 1999 and cast in 2003, is the sixth and last in this series of environmental sculptures by the French-born American sculptor, painter and printmaker.
Suspended from the underside of the spider's belly is a sac of 26 pure white marble eggs. The six sculptures have made an international sensation in the art world, having been seen in numerous cultural locations from New York City's spacious Rockefeller Center to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Three museums own bronze casts of them.
Born in Paris, France to parents who operated a tapestry restoration business,
Bourgeois studied mathematics, philosophy and fine arts there. Her interest in
sculpture was fostered by her passion for solid geometry and influenced by French
artist Fernand Léger (1881-1955), one of her teachers. She married American art
historian Robert Goldwater in 1938 and emigrated to New York, where she became
a United States citizen in 1953 and enjoyed an illustrious career teaching in American universities. Bourgeois' works in various media over a 70-year career are well represented
in numerous North American and European museum collections, such as those of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada and the Musée national d'art moderne in Paris.
For further reading:
Kotik, Charlotta. Louise Bourgeois: The Locus of Memory, Works, 1982-1993.
New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994.
Storr, Robert. Louise Bourgeois.
London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2003.
"Maman" is on view on the Plaza of the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 9N4, Canada (Telephone: 613-990-1985; Website: www.national.gallery.ca). The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Thursday night until 8:00 PM). Admission is $6.00 for adults and free on Thursdays after 5:00 PM to the permanent collection only. Paid parking is available in the museum's underground garage.
From your Guide: Stan Parchin, Contributing Editor for Museum/Special Exhibitions, is a specialist in ancient, late-medieval and Renaissance art and history. His interests include: the art and culture of Old and New Kingdom Egypt; the Italian and Northern Renaissances; Church history; and witchcraft, heresy and social dissent in late-medieval and early Modern Europe.
Louise Bourgeois' "Maman" at Rockefeller Center, New York City, 2001. Photo courtesy Cheim & Read, New York.