Portrait of C.Y., c. 1947-1949
French, American, 1911
painted wood and nails
169.5 x 8.3 x 12.5 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 38540)
© Louise Bourgeois
In 1938, Louise Bourgeois joined the community of European exiles living in New York. While her art has formal affinities with that of Europeans such as Brancusi and Giacometti, it was formed largely by the experience of her new environment. Her starkly simplified, vertical forms suggest standing figures. They were inspired by homesickness for the family she had left behind in France, or by new acquaintances who had aroused strong feelings in her.
Bourgeois wrote: "These extremely reduced forms, although apparently abstract because they were uncomplicated, were conceived of and functioned as figures, each given a personality by its shape and articulation, and responding to one another." Although each could stand alone, Bourgeois meant them to be seen in groups. In this way she translated her thoughts on the relationship of the individual to his surroundings into sculptural terms.