The Jewish Museum
Louise Bourgeois
Freud’s Daughter
21 May - 12 September 2021

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The Jewish Museum presents Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter, an exhibition that explores Bourgeois’s art and writings in light of her complex and ambivalent relationship with Freudian psychoanalysis. Curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, the exhibition showcases a focused selection of Bourgeois’s original psychoanalytic writings — many of them presented to the public for the first time — along with approximately 50 works from throughout her career.

Hear the Museum's Director and the Curator on the Exhibition

The exhibition includes the Personages of the late 1940s, the organic forms in plaster and latex of the 1960s, the pivotal installation The Destruction of the Father (1974), Passage Dangereux (1997), the largest of the artist’s Cell installations, and the fabric sculptures from the last 15 years of her life. The exhibition is on view at the Jewish Museum from May 21 through September 12, 2021.

Passage Dangereux 

Metal, wood, tapestry, rubber, marble, steel, glass, bronze, bones, flax, and mirrors
264.2 x 355.6 x 876.3 cm / 104 x 140 x 345 in
Private Collection


Fabric, stainless steel, glass, wood, and lead
45.7 x 20.3 x 15.9 cm / 18 x 8 x 6 1/4 in
Collection The Easton Foundation

Perhaps more than any other artist of the twentieth century, Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) produced a body of work that consistently and profoundly engaged with psychoanalytic theory and practice. Bourgeois considered the act of making art a form of psychoanalysis and believed that through it she had direct access to the unconscious.

The Destruction of the Father

Latex, plaster, wood, fabric, and red light
237.8 x 362.3 x 248.6 cm / 93 5/8 x 142 5/8 x 97 7/8 in
Collection Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD

Conscious and Unconscious

Fabric, rubber, thread, and stainless steel
175.3 x 94 x 47 cm / 69 x 37 x 18 1/2 in
224.8 x 167.6 x 94 cm / 88 1/2 x 66 x 37 in (vitrine)
Collection The Easton Foundation

Bourgeois was in analysis with Dr. Henry Lowenfeld from 1952 to 1985, and read widely in psychoanalytic literature, including Freud, Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, Wilhelm Reich, and R.D. Laing. While in treatment, she produced an extensive written record of her analysis and its effects; these writings surfaced in two batches, in 2004 and 2010.

Hear actor Rachel Weisz voice the writings of Louise Bourgeois

Consisting of dream recordings, process notes, and other texts, the psychoanalytic writings constitute a parallel body of work that not only sheds light on the artist’s methods and motivations but also represents an original contribution to the field of psychoanalysis, especially with respect to female sexuality, symbol formation, and the nature of the artist. The psychoanalytic writings form the basis for this exhibition, and its focus on the Oedipal deadlock as the traumatic kernel of Bourgeois’s creativity.

Loose sheet of writing

September 13, 1957
Handwritten in pencil on graph paper (LB-0219)

Loose sheet of writing

April 24, 1952
Typed in black ink on off-white paper (LB-0462)

Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter

By Philip Larratt-Smith; With an Essay by Juliet Mitchell

The companion volume Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter, copublished by Yale University Press and the Jewish Museum, features an introductory text by Philip Larratt-Smith, the curator of the exhibition, in which a psychoanalytic reading of Bourgeois’s art is juxtaposed with excerpts from her psychoanalytic writings; an essay by celebrated psychoanalyst and feminist Juliet Mitchell, which situates Bourgeois’s artistic practice in relation to the female Oedipal complex; an expanded plate section of art works and writings; and a short text by Bourgeois called “Freud’s Toys” (1991).

About the Jewish Museum

Located on New York City’s famed Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum is a distinctive hub for art and Jewish culture for people of all backgrounds. Founded in 1904, the Museum was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. Devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, the Museum offers diverse exhibitions and programs, and maintains a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years.

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Related Programs

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Jewish Museum presents a series of virtual lectures featuring literary critic Elisabeth Bronfen, art historian Donald Kuspit, writer Gary Indiana, and psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster. These talks explore different facets of Bourgeois’s work, from an aesthetic appropriation of the language of hysteria, to her engagement with psychoanalysis, and consideration of her writings in relation to her other artistic works. Programs can be accessed on the Jewish Museum’s YouTube page here.

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