Paris 1911 - New York City, New York, United States 2010

Sleeping Figure

[Figure dormant]


painted balsa wood


Dimensions (HxWxD): 74 12 x 11 58 x 11 34 in.

Acc. No.: 3.1951

Credit Line: Katharine Cornell Fund

Photo credit:


  • 1951, Katharine Cornell Fund


  • MoMA's website, April 1, 2013
  • Information on title given by Wendy Williams, Managing Director, Louise Bourgeois Studio, January 27, 2013
  • 1952 NY MoMA Bulletin
    The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, vol. 19, no. 3, 1952, p. 7
  • 1967 NY MoMA Barr
    Alfred H. Barr, Painting and Sculpture in The Museum of Modern Art, 1929-1967, New York, 1967, ill. 303
  • 1977 NY MoMA Legg
    Painting and Sculpture in The Museum of Modern Art, with Selected Works on Paper. Catalogue of the Collection, January 1, 1977, Edited by Alicia Legg, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1977, p. 17


  • Gallery Label Text, MoMA's website, April 1, 2013:The Erotic Object: Surrealist Sculpture from the Collection
    June 24, 2009–January 4, 2010
    Though Bourgeois has described Sleeping Figure as "a war figure that cannot face the world and is defensive," likening its face to a mask and its arms to lances, the work's narrow, tapered shape suggests vulnerability and its jutting limbs seem to support rather than defend its body. Sleeping Figure belongs to The Personages, a group of more than eighty totemic wood sculptures the artist made in New York between 1945 and 1950. Bourgeois has characterized these works as surrogates for the family and friends she left behind in France when she moved to New York in 1938.
    Although she was never formally part of the Paris-based group, Bourgeois knew many Surrealist poets and artists and shared their interest in primitive art and the unconscious. In spite of these affinities, her work can be understood as a rejection of the male-dominated movement. While the form of this figure is phallic, its gender is ambiguous—a departure from Surrealism's objectification and fragmentation of female bodies.