Proof before the editioning of version 3, state X in the second edition.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from version 2: composition transferred to new plate in photogravure (see Curatorial Remarks). Changes from version 3, state III, by burnishing: vertical lines partially removed from top of structure. Changes from version 3, state III, in engraving: back legs of structure further developed.
Bourgeois issued the first edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” in 1947. (See cat. no. 1228.) At that time, while actively working in printmaking at the Atelier 17 workshop, she decided to create an illustrated book edition with hopes of making her work more widely known. As it turned out, the book was not a success and Bourgeois never completed the announced edition of 54 examples. It frustrated her that she had never finished the project and, much later, in the early 1980s, she began efforts to reissue the book.
Bourgeois could not locate the printing plates for the nine illustrations, so she set about producing new ones. She worked first, in 1984, with printer Deli Sacilotto, of Iris Editions, New York, to create photogravures using 1947 impressions of Plates 1, 3, and the “Alternative Plate.” Then, in 1990, she created engraved versions of Plates 2 and 6 with the assistance of Christian Guérin of Gravure, New York. First, though, in order to determine whether Guérin’s engraving was suitable, she asked him to engrave two similar compositions. (See “Atlantic Avenue: Transparent Houses” [cat. nos. 1054.1, .2, .3].)
In 1993, Bourgeois finally turned the project over to printer Felix Harlan of Harlan & Weaver, New York, with whom she had begun to work on a regular basis. Harlan would ultimately serve as both printer and coordinator of the second edition. He started out by making reprints of some of the 1983 photogravures created with Sacilotto, and the 1990 engravings created with Guérin. In addition, since by then Bourgeois had located three of the original printing plates from the 1940s (two versions of Plate 3 and one version of Plate 4), Harlan made reprints from those, but they were too distressed for use in a future edition. He also attempted to remake Plates 5, 8, and 9 in drypoint and/or etching. Finally, Bourgeois decided to work with photogravure as the starting-off point for all the compositions in the book, in order to keep the plates as close as possible to those of the 1947 edition. In 1995, new photogravure plates were made by Renaissance Press from photographs of the first edition in the New York Public Library (cat. no. 1228, Example 12). Working with Harlan, Bourgeois ultimately re-worked these photogravure plates with engraving, also adding aquatint, drypoint, scorper and watercolor additions in some instances.
The 1947 first edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” includes “vintage” examples issued in 1947 or thereabouts, as well as “assembled” examples that Bourgeois compiled in the 1980s from prints and texts that remained in her possession. Some of the “assembled” examples, including the one in the New York Public Library, have ten plates rather than the standard nine plates. The tenth plate is a composition called “Alternative Plate” for cataloguing purposes. The second edition includes this “Alternative Plate,” as well as an entirely new eleventh plate titled, “Spider.”
Bourgeois worked intermittently on this project for over a decade, with the second edition appearing in 2005 as a benefit publication for the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In addition to eleven plates, the book includes text pages from 1947 that had remained with Bourgeois, as well as a new table of contents, foreword, and colophon. The housing was constructed to match that of the 1947 first edition.
Bourgeois derived this image of a guillotine from the structure of an adjustable painting easel. (She still had the easel in 1994 and said that she "couldn't discard it. It is a kind of friend.") The depicted structure is "all buttressed... but in spite of this support, it is still a little helpless. The wheels make it even less firm. In the end, it is not cut out to do the job." A guillotine is needed, though, "because there is rage in the house.... For the first time, the overtones of punishment are coming... punishment for the fire that is raging... for the hostility. It is a self-inflicted punishment. Guilt leads to the need for punishing the self.... In a strange way, there is also an undertone of humor here. Is the string supposed to pull this contraption on wheels, or is it supposed to release the blade? It is fierce and childish at the same time. But it tries to look fierce!" About the variant printed in black, in relief, Bourgeois said: "I like it better. The mood is stronger. It is more tragic." (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 84.)
According to printer Paul Taylor, of Renaissance Press, the print workshop re-located from Hinsdale to Ashuelot, New Hampshire. On the colophon, the place is given as Hinsdale.
The Renaissance Press made photogravures from photographs of all ten plates in the New York Public Library’s example of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” (cat. no. 1228, Example 12) to serve as the starting-off point for the second edition (see Background).
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).