Louise Bourgeois – The Ainu Tree

With a career that spans seven decades, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) is one of the most influential contemporary artists – and one of the few who has managed to stay relevant over such an extensive period of time. Born in France but based in New York for most of her life, she exhibited alongside the Abstract Expressionists in the 1940s and became an inspiration for a younger generation of female artists towards the end of the century.

Louise Bourgeois - The Ainu Tree (1999)

The Ainu Tree, 1999
signed with the artist’s initials and numbered AP23
five-colour lithograph on paper
image: 58.3 by 38.3 cm.   sheet: 74 by 51 cm.
This work is artist proof 23 from an edition of 100 plus 24 artist’s proofs, 1 B.A.T., 4 printers proofs and 1 trial proof. Published by SOLO Impressions, New York. 

This edition is held in the following public collections:
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

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Today she is widely regarded as as one of the key artists from the second half of the twentieth century. Her psychologically-charged oeuvre, which often dealt with the trauma that was inflicted by her father’s betrayal of her mother, opened up the visual arts as a form of dealing with traumatic experience. Throughout her prolific oeuvre, trees were a recurring theme. In fact, the particular rendering of the tree with a thin straight stem, small crown and elaborate root structure first made its appearance as early as 1944.

More than five decades later, Bourgeois returned to this imagery for The Ainu Tree, which she conceived to benefit an impoverished Japanese tribe, the Ainu. The lithographs were printed by her neighbour and long-time collaborator Judith Solodkin, whom Bourgeois admired for the intense reds and blues she was able to produce. 

In Australia, Louise Bourgeois’ work is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. In 2012-13 the Heide Museum of Modern Art staged an exhibition dedicated to Louise Bourgeois’ late work.