Happiest Birthday to You, Louise Bourgeois

“Art is not about art. Art is about life, and that sums it up.” — Louise Bourgeois Source

From her birth on Christmas Day in Paris to her death at age 98, the imaginative, inimitable Louise Bourgeois lived a life beautifully captured in confessional, autobiographical artwork—so that today, on her would-be 102nd birthday, her story lives on in tell-tale paintings, sculptures, and prints.

And further still, Bourgeois’s story is told in the diaries she kept starting in 1923—then, at age 12, spilling the emotions of a child who just the year before had discovered her father’s affair with her English tutor. In the ’30s, she studied art at prestigious Parisian schools, worked in the studio of Fernand Léger (who denounced her as a painter and deemed her a sculptor), and moved to New York via sailboat with new husband, art historian Robert Goldwater, whom she fell for while selling him Picasso prints. By 1945 Bourgeois had had her first solo show, but it wasn’t until the age of 70, when she was honored with a retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, that the world took notice of the charmed French-American artist. Her work would later travel to the Tate Modern, the Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim Museum, and the United States Pavilion at the ’93 Venice Biennale—among a long list of exhibitions.

Bourgeois’s last project before her death was a collaboration with Tracey Emin—Bourgeois had once been called her “spiritual grandmother” by The Telegraph. Their series of emotional, intimate, and sexual drawings began as Bourgeois watercolors before being passed off to Emin to complete—they are pictured here among a handful of our other favorites.