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LOUISE BOURGEOIS: COMPLETE BOOKS & PRINTS

Louise Bourgeois: Complete Books & Prints
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Cat. No. 444-452

Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature

Date:
1998
Themes:
Body Parts, Figures, Nature, Objects
Techniques:
Aquatint, Drypoint, Etching
Description:
Portfolio with 9 compositions: all with etching and drypoint, 5 with aquatint, and 3 with hand additions
Support:
Smooth, wove Magnani Incisione paper
Dimensions:
sheet (each): 39 x 28 1/16" (99 x 71.2 cm)
Signature:
"Louise Bourgeois" lower right margin each plate, pencil.
Publisher:
Julie Sylvester-Cabot,
Whitney Museum of American Art Editions, New York
Printer:
Harlan & Weaver, New York
Edition:
28; plus 12 A.P., 3 P.P., 1 H.C., 1 B.A.T.
Impression:
A.P. 5/12
Edition Information:
Pencil additions appear on plates 3, 4, and 8 of this portfolio. Another portfolio (A.P. 1/12) has comparable pencil additions on plates 3 and 4. It is not known whether pencil additions occur on plates across the edition.
Housing:
Orange silk-wrapped portfolio cover with pink satin ribbon ties, lined with ivory wove paper.
Benefit Work:
For Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Background:
According to Bourgeois’s assistant Jerry Gorovoy, topiary work interested Bourgeois because the cutting and healing of the plant makes the tree stronger. He also points out the portfolio's connection to Bourgeois’s sister, Henriette, who had a condition that caused stiffness in her leg. Bourgeois referred to this as, "in effect, a wooden leg."

Print publisher Julie Sylvester-Cabot founded the Whitney Museum of American Art Editions in 1996, with the purpose of raising funds to be used for acquisitions. The “Topiary” portfolio had its debut at the Whitney in a small 1998 exhibition that also included Bourgeois's 1985 sculpture titled, “Henriette.”
Artist’s Remarks:
Written on a loose sheet, c. 1990s:
“Topiary
The trainer, the teacher, the carver, the butcher
To reject (cut off) and be moral about it
That is the fun
To nurture and train to full potential (valuable, useful)
I am going to cut (reject) everything in sight because I did not get what I wanted
What
To be loved by 1, 2, 3, 4
c’est la peur […]”
(The Easton Foundation: LB-0050)
Installation Remarks:
The prints in this portfolio can be shown as a group, or individually.
Bibliography:
Manchester, Elizabeth. “Louise Bourgeois: Tree with Trunk, 1998.” Tate Modern website, 2003. www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bourgeois-tree-p78621/text-summary. Last accessed November 7, 2014.

This article connects themes in the portfolio to recurring themes in the whole of Bourgeois's artwork, such as amputation and mutilation, the use of trees and plants as a metaphor for the human psyche, and the emotional significance of color.
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
416.1999.1-9
This Work in Other Collections:
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Tate Modern, London
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

From the portfolio

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  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 1 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 1 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 1 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 2 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 2 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 2 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 3 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 3 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 3 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 4 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 4 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 4 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the...
    State III of III
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 6 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 6 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 6 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 7 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 7 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 7 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 8 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 8 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 8 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
  • Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 9 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998
    Untitled, plate 9 of 9, from the...
    State II of II
    1998
    Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 9 of 9, from the portfolio, Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature. 1998