Louise Bourgeois: Complete Books & Prints
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Cat. No. 539, variant 1


Only state, variant
c. 1945
Alternate Title:
L'if (Yew); Buis (Boxwood); Bises (Kisses)
Abstraction, Nature
Soft ground etching, with pencil and black crayon additions
Smooth, wove paper
plate: 11 15/16 x 4 3/4" (30.4 x 12 cm); sheet: 13 x 9 15/16" (33 x 25.2cm)
"Louise Bourgeois" lower left margin, pencil.
"Zinc plate. Boxwoods" lower middle margin, pencil, artist's hand. Verso: "4 3/4 x 11 1/2 / zinc soft ground / (illegible) / 28 [circled]" center verso, pencil, artist's hand.
The artist
4 known variant impressions, outside the edition
Not numbered
Edition Information:
Proof before the reprinting and editioning of the only state for the portfolio “Quarantania,” published in 1990.

The colophon for the “Quarantania” portfolio states that “some [compositions] are individually titled, sometimes with a few variations.” It appears that Bourgeois occasionally inscribed titles or alternative titles while she was signing the prints.
Since Galerie Lelong was exhibiting Bourgeois's sculpture, Jean Frémon, a gallery director, proposed undertaking a print project with her. It was decided to reprint plates executed earlier and still in Bourgeois's possession, because this work was unknown to the public. In 1990, after the plates had been stored for more than forty years, they were newly printed by Piero Crommelynck, and published for this portfolio. Only "Quarantania" (9), titled "Bosom Lady" in the 1940s, was reworked in 1990 by the artist.

The 1990 reprints differ in appearance from the 1940s impressions, due to corrosion of the plates and accidental scratching over time. Also, professional printing with uniform inking and wiping creates a darker plate tone. The prints were gathered in a portfolio to represent the work from the 1940s, with the title "Quarantania," deriving from the French "quarante," meaning "forty."

In preparing this project, proofs were also pulled from other old plates in the artist's possession. However, the poor condition of those plates made it impossible to achieve acceptable impressions (see "Youth," 1941-1944; "Laurel Easton," 1944; "Dame," 1948; and "The Burner," 1948). Proofs were also pulled from a 1970s and a 1980s plate. These were editioned and published as "Spirales," c. 1974, and "Femme Maison," 1984. Bourgeois chose a cover resembling that of "He Disappeared into Complete Silence," 1947 because she saw "Quarantania" as a continuation of that work.
Artist’s Remarks:
At the house of Bourgeois's grandmother in Montchauvet were boxwood trees, which Bourgeois loved. They were shaped into all kinds of configurations; many had birds sculpted at their tops. "They were taller than humans, they were really presences," she said. "When I went into the garden at night, it was as if friendly presences populated the landscape. This made a deep impression on me."

Homesickness led Bourgeois to choose her friendly boxwoods as a subject for several drawings and paintings of the 1940s. At this time, Bourgeois also planted dozens of boxwoods at the country house in Easton, Connecticut, but they never grew tall, so they could not be trimmed and shaped. "When one feels lonely, one can befriend a boxwood. It is a friend that one can create, change, and manipulate." She believed a similar impulse led her to create wooden figural sculptures in the later forties. (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 64.)
Curatorial Remarks:
The alternate titles for this composition come from early impressions of this composition, or from inscriptions on known impressions from the “Quarantania” portfolio.

The colophon for the “Quarantania” portfolio states that the plates were engraved by Bourgeois at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 workshop in 1947. However, dates for the compositions vary and the fact that all were engraved and printed at Hayter’s workshop could not be confirmed. At this time, Bourgeois also worked on prints at home with a small press.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 24
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE
Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland
Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Worcester Art Museum, MA

Boxwoods, plate 7 of 9, from the portfolio, Quarantania
c. 1945; reprinted and published in 1990


NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION Louise Bourgeois. Boxwood. 1945
Crayon and pencil on tracing paper


Louise Bourgeois. Boxwoods. c. 1945
Only state, variant
c. 1945
Louise Bourgeois. Boxwood Noon. c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Only state, variant
c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Louise Bourgeois. Boxwood 6PM. c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Only state, variant
c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Louise Bourgeois. Boxwood Midnight. c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Only state, variant
c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Published Louise Bourgeois. Boxwoods, plate 7 of 9, from the portfolio, Quarantania. c. 1945, reprinted 1990
Only state
c. 1945, reprinted 1990