Proof before the editioning of state IV 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.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from state II, by burnishing: pattern on central column of figure partially removed. Changes from state II, in engraving: hatching added to several areas of the door and stoop; shading added to figure; composition reinforced overall. Additions in black ink: hair, anticipating state IV, and eyes.
Portfolio: 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.
Bourgeois remembered a brothel located on Thompson Street. Her subject here was "the woman as sex object... the woman waiting, and the woman used." She saw this figure as "monstrous, as an odd, wounded bird."
Bourgeois had long been interested in prostitutes. The subject of the fallen woman occurs frequently in her work. She recalled that in the thirties, as a student of Andre Lhote in Paris, she was designated the "massière," and so it was her job to hire the models. Many were prostitutes, and they made an impression on the young Bourgeois. She was struck by "their motherliness and their obsession with cleanliness."
She also recalled her father's interest in prostitutes. During the seventies, at the height of the women's movement, she became directly involoved with the legal plight of prostitutes and with their organization, C.O.Y.OT.E. (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics). (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 68.)
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 printed at Hayter’s workshop could not be confirmed.
Conflicting dates sometimes occur in Bourgeois's inscriptions because she occasionally signed them years later and dated them to the best of her memory. This impression was most likely printed in 1948.
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.
Bernadac, Marie-Laure and Deborah Wye. "Louise Bourgeois: Pensées-Plumes." Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1995, p. 21-22.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 27
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
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