Drypoint and roulette, with black ink and pencil additions
Smooth, wove Rives BFK paper
plate: 11/16 x 4 15/16" (1.7 x 12.6 cm); sheet: 14 15/16 x 11" (38 x 28 cm)
Verso: "Enfant gaté veux tu du paté / non non maman il est trop salé / Enfant gaté veux tu du bonbon / non non maman il est trop bon." upper middle sheet, pencil, artist's hand; "whether / you please or not / is a matter / of chance (billes) / to this day I / fly if, feeling / that I fail to please." left lower sheet, pencil, artist's hand; [abstract drawing] left lower sheet, blue ink, artist's hand; "the marbles means / hit or miss— / head or tail—[illeg.] / to please or not to please / Les accidents du / désir de plaire / just give up or become / a gambler—'Les fils'" lower middle sheet, pencil, artist's hand; "the children played / marbles / une grosse bille." lower right sheet, pencil, artist's hand.
Changes from state I, in drypoint: body parts further delineated; pillar in right composition further delineated; half circle in upper center composition filled in; hand in lower right composition reconfigured. Changes from state I, in roulette: shading added to arm in lower right composition.
Bourgeois admired the printing facilities of the Gravure workshop and also felt a personal rapport with the owner and master printer, Christian Guérin. Guérin helped the artist develop plates for several important projects in the early 1990s.
"This is a self-portrait as a helpless, defenseless woman. She has no arms... she is like the harmless women in sculpture. The protecting hand has been cut off. Maybe women are just poor creatures... there is always the fear of being inadequate... of not being able to take care of oneself. It is a permanent feeling. There is the need to defend oneself... then she would be afraid for the children. I always felt that I could not defend myself because I could not understand what motivates people... I still feel that way."
In reference to the game of marbles (being played by the hand at bottom right, most easily seen in state IV), Bourgeois said: "There is always someone to trick her... someone always wins. This is the desperate art of self-defense.... But even if someone cut her, she would not lose her dignity... she would still stand there in full self-assurance. She tries to put herself back together through her beauty... through her hair. You can land on your feet if you are beautiful... see the breasts, hair, high heels. If you can please men and not be guilty about it... you have it made... that's it."
About state III Bourgeois pointed out: "Another little child is there, and another is coming down from above. She can put herself together and take care of her children. She has full control over that little universe."
About the act of cutting, Bourgeois said: "If you cut—either a pattern for a dress or by using a saw—you must be in complete control... it is a need to be self-sufficient. I am interested in the cutting and fitting of clothes, but this need could not be met by cutting clothes. The studio is full of saws... to use them, you must be in total control." She added: "Cutting can also be to punish yourself. I feel people always cut me to size." (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 184.)
In Wye and Smith, "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois," 1994, this composition was catalogued with the title "Dismemberment ANATOMY," based on the artist's inscription seen on the first tracing study in the Evolving Composition Diagram below. For the 1994 edition published by Peter Blum Edition, the title was shortened to "Dismemberment" and the cataloguing for the prints has been changed to match.
The Louise Bourgeois Studio has designated all tracing studies as "Dismemberment ANATOMY." Although it is known that the tracing studies all date to 1990, their chronological order cannot be determined.
The hazy quality of the lines seen throughout this evolving composition is not like typical drypoint burr. After reviewing these prints with MoMA's Conservation Department, it is believed that the artist took deliberate measures to soften the marks, possibly by burnishing the grooves in the plate to make them shallow, or by thinning the ink with solvent. The results of this softening are most visible on the impressions of state II and III with selective wiping, and in the published impression of state IV.
The related drawing mentioned on p. 184 of Wye and Smith, "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois," 1994, cannot be identifed by the Louise Bourgeois Studio.
Wye, Deborah. "Chercher et transformer: du rôle du dessin dans les gravures de Louise Bourgeois" in Bernadac, Marie-Laure. "Louise Bourgeois: Pensées-Plumes." Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1995, p. 19-27.
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