Louise Bourgeois I, Eugénie Grandet … Maison Balzac – Paris

©Jean-François Jaussaud / ©The Easton Foundation "Louise Bourgeois, atelier de Brooklyn avec Maman" Exposition "Photographies de Louise Bourgeois 1995-2006 par Jean-François Jaussaud"à la Galerie Elizabeth Royer 16/10 au 25/10/2015
©Jean-François Jaussaud / ©The Easton Foundation
“Louise Bourgeois, atelier de Brooklyn avec Maman”
Exhibition “Photographs of Louise Bourgeois 1995-2006 by Jean-François Jaussaud” Gallery Elizabeth Royer, 10/16 au 10/25/2015

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Maison Balzac - 47 rue Raynouard - 75016 Paris
Maison Balzac – 47 rue Raynouard – 75016 Paris
Yves Gagneux, directeur de la Maison Balzac dans le bureau de Balzac.
Yves Gagneux, directeur of the Maison Balzac at Balzac’s desk.

“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

While listening to one of my favorite radio shows this summer, I stumbled upon an incredible story. An unlikely meeting, in fact, between the museum Maison de Balzac and Louise Bourgeois.
The museum’s director Yves Gagneux had heard that Louise Bourgeois wasn’t only a great admirer of Honoré de Balzac’s work, but that she also felt a strong, personal connection with his character Eugènie Grandet; in her, Louise Bourgeois saw herself. However, none of Louise Bourgeois’ works had ever referenced Balzac.
“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.
Louise Bourgeois "Eugénie Grandet" 2009 Gouache sur papier. 59,6 x 45,7 cm ©The Easton Foundation
Louise Bourgeois
“Eugénie Grandet” 2009
Watercolor on paper.
59,6 x 45,7 cm
©The Easton Foundation
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) et Paul Jeanneney (1861-1920) "Balzac, tête monumentale " 1889 (?) Grès émaillé
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) et Paul Jeanneney (1861-1920)
“Balzac, tête monumentale ” 1889 (?)
Enameled sandstone.

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.”

What a surprise! Instead of assembling a collection of already existing pieces, Louise Bourgeois would actually create an entirely new body of work—all without ever actually knowing the Maison de Balzac. Thus, the 96 year-old artist dives once more into Balzac’s Eugènie Grandet, and in her exploration of its heroine she develops an entirely new artistic style

“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.”

"Louise Bourgeois -Moi, Eugénie Grandet" Précédé de Mystères d'une identification, essai de Jean Frémon Collection Le Cabinet des lettrés, Gallimard Parution : 28-10-2010
“Louise Bourgeois -Moi, Eugénie Grandet”
Précédé de Mystères d’une identification, essai de Jean Frémon
Collection Le Cabinet des lettrés, Gallimard
Published : 10-28-2010

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.

The exhibition is not held in a museum, but in the small, low-ceilinged rooms of a home. It’s spread throughout the Maison de Balzac and its garden where, with a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, paintings are displayed in more unconventional ways. One of the exhibition’s major paintings, “My Inner Life,” is found on a red wall, a forceful departure from the blank museum spaces one often finds the artist’s work.
Louise Bourgeois Jardin des Tuileries - Paris
Louise Bourgeois
Jardin des Tuileries – Paris

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.”

For the exhibition’s very first work, Louise Bourgeois takes a poem that she’s already written about Eugènie Grandet. She imagines herself as her heroine, waiting for a letter in her New York apartment. She copies this poem “Ode to Eugènie Grandet” onto a print of a eucalyptus, intermingling text and image. This first piece is relatively detached and calm, but little by little her work becomes far more profound, more personal and eventually expressing an incredible violence: “My inner life (#5),” depicts “Eugènie Grandet screaming in pain in her mother’s womb.” It’s difficult to imagine how this 95 year old can evoke such passion in her work.
“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 goes on to rediscover household laundry brought from France, embroidering and forming them into sorts of reliquaries, set on canvases embroidered with fabric flowers and buttons—all of which she shuts into boxes.
A particularly moving work depicts a clock stopped at 10am, the hour when her precious assistant arrives and Louise Bourgeois can work, live.
Livre ouvert à p. V . Louise Bourgeois. "Eugénie Grandet" (détail) 2009 ©The Easton Foundation
Book opened to  p. V . Louise Bourgeois. “Eugénie Grandet” (détail) 2009
©The Easton Foundation

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…”

Louise Bourgeois’ creation is made not for a museum of modern art but for Balzac’s old home, detached from time amidst the his texts, around his desk, and in the small room where he would write late into the night. Like her, he was an insomniac, tirelessly drawing the landscapes of life into his notebooks.
You can find this beautiful story in the book Louise Bourgeois – Moi, Eugènie Grandet, created specially for the exhibition by Gallimard. It has a preface by Jean Frémon and is part of Gallimard’s Le Cabinet des Lettrés collection.

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.

And if you’re in New York, you can visit Louise Bourgeois’ house in Chelsea. At 347 W. 20th Street, it’s open by reservation to visitors starting this Fall.
By Florence Briat Soulie.

Translated by Chris Gortmaker,  Wesleyan University, Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris Fall 2015.

16/10 au 25/10/2015 ©Jean-François Jaussaud Photographies de Louise Bourgeois par Jean-François Jaussaud à la Galerie Elizabeth Royer http://wp.me/p5m3Pc-1aK
16/10 au 25/10/2015
©Jean-François Jaussaud
Photographs of Louise Bourgeois by Jean-François Jaussaud  Gallery Elizabeth Royer – Paris

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.

©Jean-François Jaussaud / ©The Easton Foundation Louise Bourgeois Brooklyn 1995« Nos amis » Exposition "Photographies de Louise Bourgeois 1995-2006 par Jean-François Jaussaud"à la Galerie Elizabeth Royer 16/10 au 25/10/2015
©Jean-François Jaussaud / ©The Easton Foundation
Louise Bourgeois Brooklyn 1995« Nos amis »
Exposition “Photographies de Louise Bourgeois 1995-2006 par Jean-François Jaussaud”à la Galerie Elizabeth Royer
16/10 au 25/10/2015

« 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  http://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 : elizabeth.royer@wanadoo.fr

Exhibition : Oct. 16 – Oct. 25

Maison de Louise Bourgeois, 347 W. 20th Street, entre la VIII et la IX Avenue, New York, USA.

The Louise Bourgeois, I knew by her assistant Jerry Gorovoy” Article de The Guardian 12/12/2010


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