100; plus 1 H.C. (numbered I/I) and a trade edition of 1200, plus a portfolio edition of 44
"I/I" center colophon (vol. I), black ink, unknown hand.
The sources for the illustrations in volume I of “Homely Girl” are drawings Bourgeois executed in 1991 in ballpoint pen. She reinterpreted these drawings in drypoint for the special edition, emphasizing the scratched quality of line that can be achieved with this technique. For the trade edition, she used photolithography to reproduce them (plate marks are faux). The sources for the illustrations in volume II are ophthalmological photographs of diseased eyes. Bourgeois reproduced them through photolithography.
The Arthur Miller text in volume I is repeated in volume II, but in volume II Bourgeois highlighted (in red) select passages referring to sight. The highlighted text appears in both the special edition and the trade edition of volume II.
The special edition of “Homely Girl” is quarter-bound in leather; the trade edition is entirely cloth bound. The trade edition is in MoMA’s Collection (Accession Numbers: 29.1993.A.x2 and 29.1993.B.x2) but it is not illustrated here.
The portfolio edition of “Homely Girl” includes the drypoint compositions from volume I; the compositions in volume II were not produced in a portfolio format.
Overlay on pages 18–19 of 31.
As explained in his published postscript to "Homely Girl, a Life," Peter Blum expressed to Bourgeois his wish to do a book at the time of their collaboration on the 1990 "Anatomy" portfolio (see Related Works in the Catalogue). For a long time, he had also been interested in publishing a book by American playwright Arthur Miller. While looking with Bourgeois at the book "Portraits," a collection of photographs by Miller's wife Inge Morath, which included a portrait of Bourgeois, Blum had the idea of bringing author and artist together. The publisher proposed a collaborative project, which appealed to both.
Miller visited Bourgeois's sculpture-filled Brooklyn studio and saw there, among many other works, several pieces in her series Cells, which concerns the senses of sight, hearing, and smell. Miller selected for the project an unpublished text whose subject is a romance between a girl and a blind man.
"All these eyes are very real and beautiful and interesting. They may be the subject of lots of different scientific studies, but what they have in common is that they see nothing ... they are only the documents of someone who wants to improve eyesight ... but the effort is fruitless. It is a problem of appearance and reality and this difference has to be constantly reconsidered. Appearance is fine, but it is not the crux of the matter. A document is ONLY a document ... a tool is ONLY a tool. But eyes that do not see can still be beautiful ... we do not quarrel with that. They can still fill the function of giving us pleasure. So, they fill a function, but it is not THEIR function."
But upon glancing through the illustrations of diseased eyes as they progress from bad to worse, Bourgeois remarked: "I really cannot look at this! ... The saving grace of this book is that maybe it will exhaust the number of possible accidents ... because nothing could be worse than this. If you have reached the limit here, you have reached the limit of horror. It is good to feel that things could not be worse ... that you have reached the limit of the bearable. So if you can take this, you can take anything. I hope this will be a beneficial exorcism."
The importance of eyes as a subject for Bourgeois is seen in her many sculptures of eyes. Also, a section of her illustrated book collection is devoted to eyes and opthalmology. "I live through my eyes more than my other senses ... they communicate without talk." (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. “The Prints of Louise Bourgeois.” New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 220.)
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 140
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN Baltimore Museum of Art, MD
If you are interested in reproducing images from The Museum of Modern Art web site, please visit the Image Permissions page (www.moma.org/permissions). For additional information about using content from MoMA.org, please visit About this Site (www.moma.org/site).