"AP 1/3" center sheet verso of no. 36, black crayon, unknown hand.
Varying hand additions appear on most individual works across the edition of 7 sets and 3 A.P. sets of "The Fragile." Examination of reproductions of the source drawing and of the entire edition has determined that examples of this composition include variations in the following areas: breasts, body, addition of a baby (A.P. 2/3, A.P. 3/3), in red dye; breasts and body, in blue dye; with two examples (1/7, 2/7) with no hand additions. For substantial variation from MoMA's example, see 5/7 and A.P. 3/3 in the Evolving Composition Diagram.
State Changes and Additions:
Additions in red dye: nipples and vulva.
Lison Editions is a name Bourgeois adopted when she published works herself, late in her life. "Lison" is a nickname she had as a child. The full list of her nicknames is: Lise, Lison, Lisette, Louison, Louisette.
According to Bourgeois's assistant, Jerry Gorovoy, the series of source drawings for "The Fragile" came from one 9 1/2 x 8 in. drawing pad Bourgeois used while sitting in bed.
This composition is one of thirty-six that constitute a single work of art. All of these compositions are to be exhibited together and in the indicated sequence.
Although it looks as if fabric of varying tones was used for this set, in fact, all of the compositions were printed on cream fabric. According to Raylene Marasco of Dyenamix, the varying tones, accomplished through digital printing, were requested by the artist to resemble different pieces of old fabric. (According to the artist's assistant, Jerry Gorovoy, in her later years, Bourgeois sometimes did not have enough similar old fabric to do an edition.) In "The Fragile," variations in printed sheet tones exist across the edition of 7 sets and 3 A.P. sets. Therefore, similar compositions sometimes appear on differently toned backgrounds.
Most of the compositions in this series of thirty-six were printed digitally, however, seven were screenprinted. The source drawings of the digitally printed works were done in colored pencil, watercolor, or a combination of pencil and watercolor, whereas the source drawings for the seven screenprints were done in pencil only. According to Raylene Marasco of Dyenamix, these seven compositions were initially printed digitally but the artist preferred the effects of screenprinting for these.
Louise Bourgeois Studio Notes: "In "The Fragile," 2007, Louise Bourgeois explores the physical and psychological aspects of being both mother and child. This large suite of thirty-six images encompasses the range of emotions Bourgeois identifies with motherhood -- from herself as a mother and the anxiety she experienced conforming to the ideal of a 'good mother' to her sons -- to her childhood relationship with her mother, where the conventional roles of mother and child were inverted when she was assigned to be her frail mother's chief caregiver. In particular, Bourgeois employs the figure of the spider as a reference not only to her mother, weaver and restorer of antique tapestries, but to the Greek mythological figure of Ariadne. In "The Fragile," however, the spider differs from the strong and imposing figure found in Bourgeois's sculpture. It is now disintegrating and feeble - manifesting the confusion and ambivalence that the artist associates with mothering and being a recipient of care. Ultimately, for Bourgeois the dynamics of providing care for another [was] fraught with overarching feelings of responsibility, vulnerability, and anxiety, as much when she was a child as it [was] at the age of ninety-five."
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