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Louise Bourgeois

Observer is part of a series of life-size sculptures called Personages that Louise Bourgeois created between 1945 and 1955. Symbolizing individuals from the artist’s past, the figures' thin verticality evokes the fragility of the human condition, a common theme in the arts of the postwar period.

Bourgeois rejected being associated with the Surrealists and remained an outsider to the art world during the flourishing of abstraction after World War II. Yet her work shared commonalities with both movements, including the visual exploration of memories and other psychological forces. One of the defining characteristics of her work is its deeply emotional subject matter, often autobiographical, that references familial relationships and the desire for belonging.

Throughout her career, Bourgeois created sculptures from a variety of materials, including stone, bronze, plaster, and rubber. Observer was first carved in wood and subsequently cast in bronze, retaining the appearance of the earlier version.

Louise Bourgeois
Paris, France 1911–New York, NY 2010
Painted bronze, 1947–1949; cast 1987
76 1/4 x 29 x 10 1/8 inches
Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Olga N. Sheldon Acquisition Trust, U-4087.1988

Barnett Newman, Horizon Light, 1949; Observer; and Norman Lewis, Untitled, 1958; in the Sheldon exhibition Now's the Time, 2017.