Changes from state I, in aquatint: shading added overall. Changes from state I, by burnishing: line in small scissors removed.
Bourgeois was often inspired by the subjects of early drawings when creating works at much later dates. This 1994 portfolio is an example of a project based primarily on drawings from the 1940s and referring to her life in New York at that time. The exceptions are as follows: plate 1, based on a drawing from 1986 that references childbirth; plates 4 and 9, based on drawings from the 1940s but depicting memories of her childhood years in France; plate 11, most probably based on a drawing from the 1940s of a European hotel desk.
Inscribed on a source drawing, 1986: "Ma mere et moi—Jean only [strikethrough] blames only someone who loves me unconditionaly [sic]—any one else would kick. The unconditionality of my mother's is essential to me. The literal repulses me."
Written on a loose sheet, c. 1986: "My interest in pruning shears that cut the too much, the refuse, the rejects, the too muches.
Alain refused to be born, to get out, to be in business for himself, to be separated, to be independent— The umbilical cord cutteress They cut me, separated me, I am going to cut everything around me, absolutely everything—I want the monopoly of cutting, the trees, at 345, all the cutters I am the cutter who cuts everything. I cut the books, the stones, the wood of the trees I cut them up, I cut them short—The Passive has become active forever, cut the arms and the legs, cut their wings [underlined] who is culpable? who carried out the slicing curse the cutter death to the cutter" (The Easton Foundation: LB-0050)
About a source drawing, 1986: "This should be titled, 'The Umbilical Cord,' the cord that ties the little one to the big one. As you see, it is a weapon. This is a cutting instrument, but if you don't want to see that, you can say, 'No, it's not a cutting instrument; it is a toy.' It is a game between what is real and what is a toy. Well, I thought wrongly that I could frighten people. For instance, if I have a terrific tantrum, I think wrongly that people are going to be impressed, that I am going to frighten them. They are not afraid at all. They laugh, and they say, 'Louise, keep still.' So they cut you down to size." (Quote cited in Bourgeois, Louise and Lawrence Rinder. "Louise Bourgeois Drawings and Observations." Berkeley: University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive University of California, Berkeley; Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1995, p. 139.)
In addition to the source drawings, Bourgeois used two tracings and a photocopy—designated as studies—to develop this composition. See the Evolving Composition Diagram below.
Of the 14 plates in "Autobiographical Series," Bourgeois titled plates 6 and 12. The untitled plates have been assigned descriptive titles for cataloguing purposes.
According to the artist's assistant, Jerry Gorovoy, Bourgeois traced an actual pair of scissors to develop this composition. She also used tracings of common household objects in 2006 to develop the print series, “Lullaby.”
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland Museu da Gravura Cidade de Curitiba, Brazil Tate Modern, London
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).