Louise Bourgeois: Complete Books & Prints
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Cat. No. 656.1

Montée Difficile

Version 1 of 2, only state
Descriptive Title:
English translation: "Slow Climb"
Abstraction, Figures
Drypoint, Engraving
Engraving and drypoint
Smooth, wove paper
plate: 6 7/8 x 4 13/16" (17.5 x 12.3 cm); sheet: 9 15/16 x 6 5/8" (25 x 16.8 cm)
"Bourgeois" lower right margin, pencil.
Verso: "montée difficile / structure / 3 [circled]" center sheet, pencil, artist's hand.
The artist at Atelier 17, New York
1 known impression of version 1, only state
Not numbered
Edition Information:
Not issued as a published edition at any state.
Artist’s Remarks:
"The poor devils are climbing up step by step; they are trying their best. This will become the Myth of Sisyphus." Bourgeois pointed out that it is her younger brother, Pierre, in front and that one of his legs is thinner than the other. "He is helpless," she explained. This image of awkward legs prompted her to go even further: "He had his two feet in the same shoe." She related the figure of Pierre, in his helplessness, to the homeless man, John, who in 1993 spent all of his time on her stoop.

In the middle, Bourgeois saw herself as the much stronger figure, with more resources. She was in full control of the situation because of her hair, which can relate to both sides and both people; she tried to help the others. As to the subject of helping others, she mentioned "La Chute" (The Fall) by Albert Camus wherein someone "crashes down into sin... not to have helped someone he could have helped." (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 98.)
Curatorial Remarks:
In Wye and Smith, "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois," 1994, p. 98, the alternate title "Structures," was included. It is found on a verso inscription on one of the impressions. This inscription has been found on several impressions of various 1940s compositions, and is no longer considered an alternate title.

In the second half of the 1940s, Bourgeois spent time at Atelier 17, the print workshop of Stanley William Hayter. The workshop had transferred operations from Paris to New York during the war years. It is not known precisely which prints she made at the workshop since she also worked at home on a small press. The designation of “the artist at Atelier 17” as printer means that the impression was likely made at the workshop. The designation is based on dates, inscriptions, techniques favored at Atelier 17, and/or stylistic similarities to images in the illustrated book “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” which the artist repeatedly cited as having been made at Atelier 17. It is also possible that Bourgeois worked on certain plates both at home and at the workshop, or pulled impressions at both places.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 39
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:

Montée Difficile
1946-1947; 1990

First Version

Louise Bourgeois. Montée Difficile. 1946-1947
Version 1 of 2, only state

Second version

Louise Bourgeois. Montée Difficile. c. 1990
Version 2 of 2, only state
c. 1990