« I’m working on a show about Eugénie Grandet for The Maison de Balzac in Paris. I love that story. It could be the story of my life. I feel for Eugénie Grandet. Like her, my mother was my best friend and protector. When my mother died, I feel apart. My father wanted to control me. As a consequence, I ran away to America » Louise Bourgeois, 2009
« At the Centre Pompidou in 2008, the museum’s book store exhibited a table with a selection of books presented as Louise Bourgeois’ ‘ideal library.’ In this collection one found… Le Père Goriot and Eugènie Grandet. »Essay by Jean Frémon, p. 9. Louise Bourgeois – I, Eugènie Grandet ed. Gallimard.
Yves Gagneux writes to Louise Bourgois in 2006 to propose that they organize an exhibition of her works in the Maison Balzac. He sends the letter, but receives no response.
It’s only much later that Yves Gagneux learns that Louise Bourgeois is actually quite interested in his project. A year passes and he receives a photograph. In a little note, Louise Bourgeois’ assistant Jerry Gorovoy writes, « Louise Bourgeois made this piece for your exhibition. »
« For me Eugenie Grandet is the prototype of the unfulfilled woman. There can be no blossoming for her. This Balzac character is the prisoner of a father who needed a maid. « Louise Bourgeois
The first work Louise Bourgeois creates for the Maison Balzac is a eucalyptus palm merged with a poem. A series of 24 exceptional pieces follow. Never has the artist ever created a series of works dedicated specifically to a museum, nor for that matter the home of an author—the Honoré de Balzac himself, the « Napoléon des Lettres. »
Balzac’s heroine Eugènie Grandet shakes Louise Bourgeois to the core. At more than 90 years old, Louise Bourgeois finds such a personal resonance in her that she’s convinced she’s found her double. As her assistant reads the novel to her, Louise Bourgeois is persuaded that she, herself, is Eugènie Grandet. Her relationship with her cruel and oppressive father, the intimacy between her and her mother—their passion for tapestry, sewing together all day long—and her cousin, the cousin her father had welcomed into the family and with whom she would fall in love, a love her father would not hesitate to destroy; Louise Bourgeois finds all of this in Eugènie Grandet.
Louise Bourgeois has given us more than just another exposition; it’s an excavation, and a personal triumph. She reveals to us with incredible vigor the emotions she’s wrestled with for her entire life. At 96 years of age, she flourishes her eternal youth and gives herself to us, eternally a rebellious teenager. With Balzac’s Eugènie Grandet as Louise Bourgeois’ reflection, the exhibition is a mirror of artistic introspection. The artist stares into herself, reassured and inspired by her literary heroine, but held still within the embrace of that famous spider « Maman. »
« Five years passed without a single event to relieve the monotonous existence of Eugenie and her father. The same actions were performed daily with the same autoatic regularity of clockwork. The deep sadness of Mademoiselle Grandet was known to all. » Honoré de Balzac Eugénie Grandet
Louise Bourgeois passes away before the exhibition opens.
Yves Gagneux describes how, « I saw Louise Bourgeois throughout all of her works, I knew Louise Bourgeois, a bit like I knew Balzac. » The day she dies, Yves Gagneux learns quickly of her passing and is deeply shaken. « My relationship with Louise Bourgeois, » he recounts, « was not a relationship with an old woman, but a woman who was eternally young, and she let herself die when she had lost her memory, and it was this memory that was her work, her life… »
If you’re in Paris, don’t hesitate to visit the Maison de Balzac! You’ll find works by greats like Picasso and Rodin, as well as lesser-known artists such as Christian Dotrement and Pierre Alechinsky. Like Louise Bourgeois, all of these artists have admired and found creative inspiration in Balzac’s texts. Come and marvel at how their works dialogue, each in their own special way, with one of France’s greatest writers.
Translated by Chris Gortmaker, Wesleyan University, Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris Fall 2015.
In her gallery, Elizabeth Royer Grimblat presents photographs of Louise Bourgeois taken by Jean-François Jaussaud—a beautiful meeting between a young photographer and the great artist. For eleven years (1995-2006), Bourgeois left Jaussaud free to come and go as he pleased and to photograph her in her studio as well as her house in New York, which opens to visitors this autumn.
« Story of my time with Louise Bourgeois » « I met Louise Bourgeois for the first time in the winter of 1994. Without delay, on this first encounter, we went into the office of her Brooklyn workshop, an old garment factory at 475 Dean Street. What followed was an « interrogation » a little strange and yet funny, a sort of questionnaire almost administrative: date of birth, address, contact information. She was meticulously writing everything down in a little notebook… » Jean-François Jaussaud https://thegazeofaparisienne.com/2015/09/12/save-the-date-10122015/
Elizabeth Royer Gallery – 5 Place du Palais Bourbon – 75007 Paris
Tel : 01 44 39 54 00 Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Exhibition : Oct. 16 – Oct. 25
Maison de Louise Bourgeois, 347 W. 20th Street, entre la VIII et la IX Avenue, New York, USA.