Louise Joséphine Bourgeois is born on 25 December in Paris to Louis Isadore Bourgeois and Joséphine Valerie Fauriaux. Her Parents run a tapestry gallery and restoration atelier, repairing and selling mediaeval and Renaissance tapestries and antiques.
Bourgeois’s father is mobilized to fight in WWI. When he is wounded in 1916, Louise and her mother travel to Chartres to visit him in the hospital. Towards the end of the war, the mother contracts the Spanish flu and never fully recovers.
Bourgeois attends the prestigious Lycée Fenelon in Paris, where she is enrolled until 1927, and again in 1932. Her education is frequently interrupted to care for her mother.
Sadie Gordon Richmond is hired by Bourgeois’s father as an English teacher for his children. She becomes his mistress and lives with the family.
Bourgeois uses her drawing skills to help out in the tapestry workshop. She becomes an expert at drawing legs and feet.
Bourgeois’s mother, Joséphine, dies.
Bourgeois receives her baccalaureate in philosophy from Lycée Fenelon and enters the Sorbonne, studying solid geometry and differential calculus.
Depressed by her mother’s death, Bourgeois abandons mathematics and begins to study art. Over the next several years, she studies under various artists in Montparnasse and Montmartre.
Bourgeois takes courses at the École des Beaux-Arts, and art history classes at the École du Louvre, where she becomes a docent and works as a guide at the Musée du Louvre. She also studies under Fernand Léger. During this time, Léger remarks that Bourgeois’s sensibility leans toward the three-dimensional.
Bourgeois opens her own art gallery in a section of her father’s tapestry gallery at 174 Boulevard Saint-Germain. She sells prints and paintings by Delacroix, Matisse, Redon, Valadon, and Bonnard, among others… American art historian Robert Goldwater, who recently completed his Ph.D. dissertation, subsequently published as Primitivism in Modern Painting.
Bourgeois and Goldwater return to France to arrange for the adoption of a French orphan, Michel Olivier (b.1936).
Bourgeois enrolls at the Art Students League, and begins making prints in addition to producing paintings and drawings.
Bourgeois’s adopted son, Michel Olivier, arrives in New York in May. She gives birth to her second son, Jean-Louis Thomas Bourgeois, in July.
The family moves to 142 East 18th Street, an apartment building known as “Stuyvesant’s Folly,” and also acquires a country house in Easton, Connecticut. She starts making wood sculptures on the apartment building’s roof, and, in the summer, at the country house. The couple’s third son, Alain Matthew Clément Bourgeois, is born in November.
Bourgeois has her first solo show, “Paintings by Louise Bourgeois,” at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York. She begins exhibiting in group shows with abstract expressionists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell.
Bourgeois is included in the group show “The Women” at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery in New York.
Bourgeois begins making prints at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 in New York. There she completes a suite of nine engravings accompanied by parables, entitled He Disappeared into Complete Silence (1947).
“Louise Bourgeois, Recent Work 1947-1949: Seventeen Standing Figures in Wood,” is the artist’s first solo exhibition of sculpture, shown at the Peridot Gallery in New York.
Bourgeois has a second exhibition at the Peridot Gallery, featuring 15 wood sculptures.
Alfred Barr acquires Sleeping Figure (1950) for the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Bourgeois’s father, Louis, dies unexpectedly.
Suffering from depression, Bourgeois begins psychoanalysis in late 1951. She sees her analyst, Dr. Henry Lowenfeld, intensely from 1952-1967, and then less frequently until his death in 1985.
Bourgeois has her last solo show at Peridot Gallery, “Louise Bourgeois: Drawings for Sculpture and Sculpture”.
Bourgeois opens a bookshop, Erasmus Books and Prints, which she will run until December 1959.
Bourgeois becomes an American citizen.
Bourgeois starts experimenting with organic forms and more fluid materials, such as plastic, latex, and rubber.
Bourgeois and Goldwater move to 347 West 20th Street in New York, where Bourgeois will live until her death.
In her first solo show in eleven years, “Louise Bourgeois: Recent Sculpture,” Bourgeois exhibits a new body of work in plaster and latex at the Stable Gallery, New York.
Bourgeois’s work is shown alongside a younger generation of artists, including Eva Hesse and Bruce Nauman, in the seminal exhibition “Eccentric Abstraction” at Fischbach Gallery, New York, organized by Lucy Lippard.
Bourgeois makes her first trip to Pietrasanta, Italy, to work in marble and bronze, and will return there repeatedly over the next five years. During this time she creates the Janus series (1968), among several other significant works.
Bourgeois engages in political and feminist activities.
Bourgeois receives an Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Bourgeois’s husband, Robert Goldwater, dies.
In a solo show at 112 Greene Street, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpture 1970-1974, Bourgeois exhibits several marble pieces, the hanging Janus series in bronze (1968), Labyrinthine Tower (1962) and the installation The Destruction of the Father (1974).
Bourgeois receives an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from Yale University.
Xavier Fourcade Gallery exhibits 33 wood Personages and the recent sculpture Partial Recall (1979).
Bourgeois acquires a studio in Brooklyn that allows her to work on a much larger scale.
Bourgeois is included in 10 Abstract Sculptures: American and European 1940-1980, a group show at the Max Hutchinson Gallery, New York, organized by Jerry Gorovoy. That same year, Gorovoy curates The Iconography of Louise Bourgeois, also at the Max Hutchinson Gallery. The show presents early prints, drawings, and more than thirty paintings, including four titled Femme Maison (1945-47). By the end of the 1980s, Gorovoy will have become Bourgeois’s principal assistant, and will remain so until her death.
Bourgeois and Gorovoy return to Italy so that Bourgeois can produce new marble works.
“Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective,” curated by Deborah Wye, opens at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The show will travel to Houston, Chicago and Ohio.
Bourgeois begins exhibiting internationally with a show at The Serpentine Gallery, London and Maeght-Lelong, Paris.
Bourgeois begins to produce large-scale installations, precursors to her later series of Cells.
Bourgeois has her first European retrospective in Germany at Frankfurter Kunstverein. The show travels to Munich, Lyon, Barcelona, Bern and Otterlo.
Bourgeois’s son, Michel, dies.
Extending the scale of her installations, she shows the work Twosome (1991) in the exhibition “Dislocation” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She also exhibits six Cells at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.
Bourgeois exhibits Precious Liquids (1992) at Documenta IX, Kassel, Germany.
The Guggenheim Museum, New York inaugurates its new Soho space with the exhibition “From Brancusi to Bourgeois: Aspects of the Guggenheim Collection”.
Bourgeois represents the United States at the American Pavilion of the 45th Venice Biennale with a new series of Cells.
“The Locus of Memory,” an expanded version of Bourgeois’s Venice Biennale installation curated by Charlotta Kotik, opens at the Brooklyn Museum, and features the artist’s first large-scale Spider. The show travels to Washington D.C., Prague, Paris, Hamburg and Montreal.
The St. Louis Art Museum presents “Louise Bourgeois: The Personages,” organized by Jeremy Strick.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, presents “The Prints of Louise Bourgeois.” The show will travel to Paris and Gravelines, France, as well as to Oxford, and Maastricht. The first volume of Bourgeois’s print catalogue raisonné is published to accompany the exhibition.
Blumarts, New York, exhibits “Louise Bourgeois: The Red Rooms.”
Bourgeois begins to produce what will become a series of 220 drawings, The Insomnia Drawings (1994-95).
Bourgeois exhibits her largest cell, Passage Dangereux, at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, in the exhibition “Wounds: Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art.”
Bourgeois participates in the 48th Venice Biennale with five recent fabric works. She is awarded the Golden Lion for a living master of contemporary art.
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte/Reina Sofia in Madrid presents “Louise Bourgeois: Architecture and Memory,” organized by Jerry Gorovoy and Danielle Tilkin.
Bourgeois receives a commission for the inaugural installation at the Turbine Hall of Bankside Power Station, London, opening as the new Tate Gallery of Modern Art. She conceives a 30-foot spider, Maman (1999), and three steel towers, employing staircases and mirrors, titled I Do, I Undo, and I Redo (1999–2000).
“Louise Bourgeois: Reconstruction of the Past” opens at the Akademie Der Bildenden Künste Wien, and travels to the Kunstraum Innsbruck.
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg presents “Louise Bourgeois at the Hermitage,” curated by Julie Sylvester. The exhibition will travel to the Helsinki City Art Museum, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark.
Bourgeois’s 30-foot bronze spider sculpture Maman (1999) and two 11-foot Spider sculptures (1996) are installed in New York City’s Rockefeller Center.
Galerie Hauser & Wirth in Zürich exhibits a range of Bourgeois’s marble works. She is also represented by four of her Portrait Cells (2000) at Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany.
Bourgeois is honoured with the Wolf Prize in the Arts for Painting and Sculpture by the Wolf Foundation in Israel.
Dia Center for the Arts inaugurates their new space in Beacon, New York with an exhibition of plaster, latex and bronze sculptures from the 1960s, along with The Destruction of the Father (1974) and the Cell sculpture, Spider (1997).
The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York exhibits The Insomnia Drawings (1994-1995).
The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin presents “Louise Bourgeois: Stitches in Time”. The exhibition travels to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, and the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Málaga, Spain.
The Wifredo Lam Center, Havana, exhibits sculptures and prints in “Louise Bourgeois: One and Others.”
Two new hanging aluminium sculptures are included in the 51st Venice Biennale.
Tate Modern in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris organises a retrospective of Bourgeois’s work, which will travel to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. through 2009.
The French Legion of Honour medal is given to Bourgeois by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the artist’s Chelsea home.
Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach debut their film Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine.
Bourgeois completes a suite of 16 fabric prints in collaboration with Tracey Emin titled Do Not Abandon Me (2009-2010).
The Fondazione Vedova, Venice presents “Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works,” curated by Germano Celant. The exhibition travels to inaugurate Hauser & Wirth’s new Savile Row space in London. A revised version of the show will be presented at Cheim & Read in New York in 2011.
Louise Bourgeois passes away on 31 May.
The Steilneset Memorial in Vardø, Norway, titled The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved, 2007–10, designed by Bourgeois and architect Peter Zumthor, is inaugurated. Commemorating the trial and execution of 91 people – mostly women – for witchcraft in the 17th century, it is Bourgeois’s last major work.
Based on Bourgeois’s own writings over more than 30 years of psychoanalysis, Philip Larratt-Smith organises an exhibition at the Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires, “Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed,” which travels as “Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Forbidden Desire” to the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, and the Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro.
Fondation Beyeler in Riehen / Basel, Switzerland presents “Louise Bourgeois: À L’Infini,” curated by Ulf Küster. The exhibition includes sculptures from every decade of Bourgeois’s career, juxtaposed with works by modern masters from the Beyeler Collection.
“Louise Bourgeois: Conscious and Unconscious,” the first survey of Bourgeois’s work in the Middle East, opens at The Qatar Museums Authority Gallery in Doha.
The Freud Museum, London exhibits “Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed”.
Faurschou Beijing mounts Bourgeois’s first exhibition in China, “Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together,” which travels to the Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh presents “Artist Rooms: Louise Bourgeois, A Woman Without Secrets”.
Hauser & Wirth in Zurich exhibits “L’Araignée et Les Tapisseries,” the most comprehensive overview of Bourgeois’s tapestry works to date.
“Louise Bourgeois: I Have Been to Hell and Back,” curated by Iris Müller-Westermann, opens at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
Haus der Kunst in Munich organizes “Louise Bourgeois, Structures of Existence: The Cells,” curated by Julienne Lorz. The exhibition will travel to The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Russia, the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Humlebæk, Denmark.
The Tate Modern, London, England presents “Artist Rooms: Louise Bourgeois”.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents “Louise Bourgeois: Twosome,” Bourgeois’s first major exhibition in Israel, curated by Jerry Gorovoy and Suzanne Landau.