This catalogue will document every print and illustrated book created by Louise Bourgeois, ultimately comprising some 3,500 entries. Entries will be added to the site once a year, according to theme. Some areas of the catalogue include the note “research to date,” which means research completed to date; some records say “Research in Progress,” as documentation is currently incomplete. The majority of the works in the catalogue are in MoMA’s collection; others may not have been examined by MoMA cataloguers, and their documentation was gathered from various sources.
Prints include all known states and variants. Individual object pages include standard cataloguing documentation, as well as additional components meant to demonstrate Bourgeois’s creative process within the printmaking medium, and to position prints within her work overall. The following terms have extended explanations:
A Catalogue Number (Cat. No.) is assigned when full documentation on a print is provided on the site; the number does not represent a place in a chronological sequence within the artist’s work. Limited records with “Research in Progress” notes, or prints that are part of larger projects not yet fully documented, do not have Catalogue Numbers.
Each individual composition receives an Arabic number (1–10, etc.). If that composition has States, those are given Roman Numerals separated by a slash (2/I, 2/II, 2/III, etc.). If a variant exists, that word is added to the numbers after a comma (2/III, variant); if there is more than one variant of a particular State, it is given a sequential number but that number does not reflect when the print was completed, since that is unknown (2/III, variant 1; 2/III, variant 2, etc.).
If, after having been printed using one matrix, a composition was re-executed on another matrix, or additional plates were incorporated, the resulting impressions are considered different Versions of that composition. The Catalogue Number for a Version is distinguished by the addition of a period after the primary number designation, and then a numeral indicating the Version’s place in the sequence of Versions; State numbers follow (3.1/I, 3.1/II; 3.2/I, 3.2/II; etc.).
Illustrated books, portfolios, and series are given spans of sequential numbers, one for each individual composition. For example, the illustrated book, Ode à ma mère, is assigned Cat. Nos. 4a-12a, with each illustration receiving a separate number in a sequence that reflects the order of the book; related States and variants follow the system described above. If a portfolio edition has been published along with an illustrated book edition, as with Ode à ma mère (Cat. Nos. 4b-12b), they are distinguished as “a” and “b” following the Catalogue Number. However, if a related portfolio was made with new matrices, the portfolio is treated as a new version. Groups of prints in series and in portfolios not related to books are treated similarly, even if a sequence has not been designated by the artist. For instances when sequencing is designated, particularly for exhibition purposes, that is noted in Installation Remarks.
Titles come from the artist or from the Artist’s Studio. In some cases, the artist referred to a composition by more than one title; those are cited as Alternative Titles.
All known States and Variants of compositions are included in this catalogue. The numbering of the Variants (Variant 1, Variant 2, etc.), and their order in the Evolving Composition Diagrams, are arbitrary designations since their chronological order is unknown. Versions, meaning compositions transferred to new matrices or with additional plates incorporated, are also described. Since Bourgeois’s printmaking practice is marked by her use of evolving states, the States/Variants category is always populated. In some cases, the traditional use of the words “State” and “Version” may be superseded in the cases of digital prints, screenprints, photocopies and other mechanical reproductive processes. For lithographs with known trial proofs, the number of runs through the press to add different colors is cited.
Dates come from the artist, the Artist’s Studio, the printers and publishers, or the sheets themselves. A “c.” is added to a date (e.g. c. 1984) if it is believed that sheet was pulled sometime near that date. Span dates are given to individual compositions when they are a best estimate. Evolving Composition diagrams often have span dates, as compositions were created over a period of time. In some instances, the work was created in one or more years, but not published and issued for distribution until a later date. Those differing dates are noted in the Evolving Composition heading (e.g. 2000–2001, published 2005).
Medium descriptions include all techniques and hand additions appearing in a composition, in order of the extent found within that composition. Printed ink color is not noted, while color and medium of hand additions is noted. Printed ink can be distinguished from hand additions through descriptions of the locations of hand additions, and through the image zoom function. Search functions allow for prints in particular printmaking techniques to be viewed together. If a composition has several techniques, it will appear in a search undertaken for any of those techniques. Such searches can be conducted through the Techniques landing page, through a hyperlink in the Technique field of the Cataloguing Documentation, or through the Advanced Search.
Named paper types are cited if known. Fabric supports are given the generic “fabric,” without an indication of the precise type (cotton, percale, rayon, etc.), as that identification is outside the expertise of the Cataloguers. However, if fabrics have a particularly distinctive character, they are cited (silk, gauze, etc.).
Inscriptions by the artist are cited; notes from printers, or numbers and other identifying marks from the Artist’s Studio, are not. Occasionally, inscriptions by others are included if they have particular relevance.
Individuals or entities representing both categories are noted. Further information on those who worked most extensively with the artist is included on the Printers & Publishers page in Featured Printers and Publishers. On that landing page, searches can be conducted through View index of all Printers & Publishers. In addition, searches can occur through the hyperlinks Publisher and Printer on individual object pages, in Cataloguing Documentation, or through Advanced Search. Evolving states are not published and are so designated. Works created by the artist early in her career are mostly unpublished and she usually served as printer.
All known information about editions is cited, including regular editions, artist’s proofs (A.P.), hors commerce (H.C.) impressions, Bon à tirer (B.A.T.) impressions, printer’s proofs (P.P.), trial proofs (T.P.), in descending order of quantity. This information was gathered from printers, publishers, and the Artist’s Studio. For unpublished prints, if the number of impressions is known, it is cited. If impressions are numbered, that number is cited in the Impression category.
This category appears when additional documentation is needed. For example, an early state of a print will include a note identifying the state of the eventual editioned print. Also, if distinctive elements occur across the numbered and published edition of a print, those elements are described. The word “proof” is used for sheets before the editioned state, and the word “impression” is used for sheets outside the editioned state.
Most state changes are visible in the images provided, when viewing prints in the Compare Works mode. These changes are also described if they are difficult to distinguish visually. Hand additions (in ink, gouache, watercolor, etc.) are also described, again particularly if they are difficult to determine from the images.
Background information includes the circumstances surrounding the initiation of a print project, if known, or its particular purpose.
Artist’s Remarks include texts from interviews with the artist by Deborah Wye published in the first catalogue raisonné: Deborah Wye and Carol Smith. The Prints of Louise Bourgeois. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994. They also include relevant inscriptions by the artist found on Source Works, Related Works, or Related Works in Other Mediums.
Installation Remarks occur infrequently but include instructions of the artist. One example would be if prints in a series or portfolio are designated to be exhibited in their entirety and in a proscribed sequence.
Curatorial Remarks are those contributed by the various Cataloguers and include information that sheds light on the print but does not fit precisely in other Cataloguing Documentation categories.
Other Remarks include information gathered from the following sources: the artist’s assistant, Jerry Gorovoy; the Managing Director of the Artist’s Studio, Wendy Williams; and the publishers and printers involved with the projects.
Only texts related to specific prints are cited; texts with brief remarks about prints, or with illustrations of prints are not included.
Included here are the catalogue raisonné numbers for prints created from 1938-1993 and included in: Deborah Wye and Carol Smith. The Prints of Louise Bourgeois. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994. References to those numbers are preceded by “W & S”.
The majority of the works in this Catalogue are in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. MoMA’s accession numbers are comprised of the year of acquisition and the order in which a work came into the Collection. For example, the accession number 617.1996 means that work entered the Collection in 1996 and was the 617th work (in any medium) to do so in that year. Occasionally, the accession number is followed by another number, for example, 72.1996.1. The number in this case refers to the first plate in an illustrated book, but could also refer to prints in a series or portfolio. However, such additional numbers have been assigned with different criteria over the years. The accession number may also be followed by letters to refer to multi-part works, for example, 543.1994.a-c. The letters here refer to the three sheets that make up a triptych.
If prints are known to reside in public collections in addition to MoMA, the collection is noted in This Work in Other Collections. If a print is not in MoMA’s collection, but resides in some public collection, that is noted in Public Collection. Ownership in private collections is not noted.
For works in MoMA's Collection, please see image permissions.
For all other works, please contact the Louise Bourgeois Studio:
Wendy Williams, Managing Director
Louise Bourgeois Studio
420 West 14th Street, # 7-N
New York, NY 10014
A diagram charting the development of a particular print, including known source, study, versions, states and variants, is included on the individual object page for that print. The print is outlined in red in the diagram to identify its placement in an evolving composition. States, including any state variants, are divided by vertical dotted lines. If the print ends with inclusion in a book or portfolio, that is included in the diagram. The printed sheets considered part of the evolution are surrounded by a box with a dark outline; these can be compared and contrasted in the Compare Works mode, and also clicked open to bring up their individual object pages. The Source images open to larger views in a light box, and are also available in the Compare Works mode.
A gray tab at the upper left of the Evolving Composition diagram can be opened to allow for comparisons between works within the darker outlined box of the diagram, as well as Source works.
Bourgeois’s prints are integral to her work overall and this is evident by the fact that her themes, motifs, and titles appear across mediums. The Related Works in Other Mediums section includes related works in other mediums. This section is not meant to be comprehensive, but to provide a general overview of the artist’s creative process.
The artist often wrote the texts for her illustrated books, or included texts on individual prints. If those are not visible or legible in the images, they are provided as a Publication Excerpt. Bibliographic sources dealing specifically with a print are also cited here, with a summary.
The landing page for a particular theme gives two general viewing choices. View Individual Works leads to a grid of all sheets related to that theme, including every state and variant. View Evolving Compositions leads to a grid of “stacks” grouping individual sheets into titled projects and offering a convenient overview of the artist’s work on a theme; clicking open a stack provides a grid of its individual sheets. Themes can also be searched on the individual object pages through the hyperlink Themes in the Cataloguing Documentation, and through Advanced Search.
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