"1/30" lower center colophon, pencil, unknown hand.
PLATES: The plates in the second edition were based on plates of a first edition example in the collection of the New York Public Library (cat. no. 1228, Example 12). The NYPL plates were photographed and then photogravure plates were made from the photographs by Renaissance Press, Ashuelot, NH.
The NYPL example is considered “assembled” because it was put together by the artist in the 1980s with texts and plates from the 1940s that remained in her possession. There are several differences between the NYPL’s “assembled” first edition and the “vintage” first edition example in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, which was acquired in 1947, the date of publication (see cat. no. 1228, Example 1). Those differences are reflected in the new plates for the 2005 second edition. They are as follows:
NYPL Plates 3, 7, and 9 are earlier states of the compositions used in MoMA’s “vintage” Example 1. NYPL’s example includes a tenth plate, the “Alternative Plate,” which is not included in MoMA Example 1.
The second edition includes eleven plates: the nine original plates, the “Alternative Plate,” and a new plate entitled “Spider.”
SIGNATURES AND PLATE NUMBERS: Bourgeois signed the plates and added the plate number inscriptions at different times. In MoMA’s example of the book, her handwriting size varies for these elements and may vary throughout the edition. For the plate numbers in MoMA’s example, she uses an upper case “P” on all plates except Plates 1 and 9, where she uses the lower case. Such variations may exist throughout the edition. The “LB” signatures were completed in May-June 2002. The plate numbers were added a year later, in June-July 2003. The colophons were signed in March 2005.
TEXT PAGES: The 30 books in the second edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” are made up of text pages from the first edition of 1947 that remained in Bourgeois’s possession. The books also include text pages made specifically for the second edition: title page, copyright page, contents page, foreword, “Spider” title page, and colophon. (See Pagination.)
Supplementing the regular edition of 30 books are A.P., H.C., B.A.T., P.P., and T.P. examples. (See Edition.) The 1947 text pages in these examples show some distinctions. Descriptions, compiled by the Harlan & Weaver workshop, are as follows:
1/30-29/30: 1947 text pages do not include a signature on the colophon.
30/30: 1947 text pages do not include a signature on the colophon; the title page has erased pencil writing with circle drawn around it.
A.P. 1/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon with the signatures of Bourgeois, Marius Bewley (author of 1947 introduction), and Anaïs Nin (author, and owner of Gemor Press, where the 1947 text pages were printed). In addition, there is a pencil drawing by Bourgeois of a press (a book press?) on the verso of the back page of the text. (There are no other known examples of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” in the first or second editions with the signature of Anaïs Nin.)
A.P. 2/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois. Original 1947 text has “Missing plates” inscribed in pencil on cover of text. A slip of paper with “incomplete” [sic] written on it is inserted in the book.
A.P. 3/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois and numbered “22.” The title page has the following text written in pencil: “Missing text by Bewley / Bits and pieces.”
A.P. 4/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois and numbered “23.” This colophon seems to have once been part of first edition, Example 19 (Sotheby’s, November 9, 1984 Sale), which was purchased by the artist and dismantled. That Example was numbered “23.”
A.P. 5/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois.
A.P. 6/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois. The text also has a dedication: “with love Louise, June 1978” and (in different [?] writing): “theme of alienation, cruelty.”
A.P. 7/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois.
A.P. 8/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois. Text back cover has “10 plates, from 35 to 44” written on it.
A.P. 9/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois and Marius Bewley.
A.P. 10/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois.
A.P. 11/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois.
A.P. 12/12: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois.
B.A.T.: 1947 text pages are incomplete; the colophon is unsigned. The missing text pages (NINE ENGRAVINGS / Plate 1 / Plate 6) were reproduced in letterpress by Peter Kruty Editions, Brooklyn.
P.P.: 1947 text pages include a colophon signed by Bourgeois.
H.C.: 1947 text pages include a signed colophon by Bourgeois. This example does not include the 2005 text pages. When the prints from this set were framed, extra original text pages were used to complete the parables. There is no “H.C.” designation on this example; plates are initialed and numbered as in the regular edition.
H.C.: Full set of 2005 plates with no text pages from 1947 or from 2005. Each plate includes an “LB” chopmark in the lower right-hand corner. Plates are designated “H.C.” and not with plate numbers as in the regular edition.
T.P.: Full set of 2005 plates with no text pages from 1947 or from 2005. There is no “T.P.” designation on this example; plates are initialed and numbered as in the regular edition.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from version 2: composition transferred to new plate in photogravure (see Curatorial Remarks). Changes from version 3, state IX, in drypoint: hatch marks added below horizon line.
6 unnumbered pp (including title, copyright, contents and foreword from 2005); 12 unnumbered pp (including title, dedication, and introduction from 1947); 24 unnumbered pp (including “Nine Engravings” title page, text pages, colophon, and back cover from 1947), with 10 plates interspersed; 4 pp (including “Spider 2001-02” title page from 2005), with 1 plate interspersed; 2 unnumbered pp (including 2005 colophon).
Printer of Text:
Gemor Press, New York for 1947 texts, The Grenfell Press, New York for 2005 texts
Unbound. Beige linen cover (overall: 10 ½ x 7 9/16 x 5/8” [26.7 x 19.2 x 1.6 cm]), with brown textured paper lining and flaps to hold book in place. On the cover: off-white label, 2 ¾ x 2 5/8” (6.9 x 1.6 cm), printed in black: “LOUISE / BOURGEOIS.” On the spine: off-white label, ½ x 2 5/8” (1.3 x 6.7 cm), printed in black: “BOURGEOIS.”
Claudia Cohen Bookbinder, Seattle, Washington, produced the cover, modeled after the 1947 edition.
Pink paper wrap-around band, 4” (10.2 cm) high, intended to encircle the cover, printed in black: “HE DISAPPEARED / INTO COMPLETE / SILENCE / 1947-2005.”
For the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
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 later 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).
Bourgeois is the author of the nine parables in "He Disappeared into Complete Silence." Marius Bewley is the author of the Introduction in the 1947 edition. Deborah Wye is the author of the Forward in the 2005 edition.
Marius Bewley (American, 1918-1973), author of the 1947 Introduction, was a poet and literary scholar, who also served for a year (1944-45) as Peggy Guggenheim’s assistant at her New York gallery, Art of This Century. (A slightly altered version of his text appears in “Tiger’s Eye” I, no. 7 [March 15, 1949], 89-92.)
Deborah Wye, author of the 2005 Foreword, was MoMA’s Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books at the date of publication. She is a scholar of Bourgeois’s work and is the Editor of this online catalogue raisonné.
Most books and catalogues surveying Bourgeois’s work include a discussion of the 1947 first edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” as well as illustrations of some, if not all, plates and parables. To date (2018), plates from the 2005 second edition have only occasionally been included in publications, and without lengthy text discussions.
Other references of note for the first edition: Bourgeois, Louise. “He Disappeared into Complete Silence.” Paris: Éditions Dilecta, 2008. Trade edition. Edition: 2000. (This edition was made from Example 7 of the first edition [Collection Louise Bourgeois Trust], but it includes French translations.)
Cluitmans, Laurie, and Arnisa Zeqo, eds. “He Disappeared into Complete Silence: Rereading a Single Artwork by Louise Bourgeois.” With texts by Mieke Bal, Maria Barnas, Lytle Shaw, Robert Storr, Steven ten Thije, and Arnisa Zeqo. Haarlem, Netherlands: De Hallen Haarlem, 2011.
Nixon, Mignon. “He Disappeared into Complete Silence: Phantastic Reality.” In “Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art.” Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2005, pp. 83-117.
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofía, Madrid (long-term loan from The Easton Foundation) Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands Jordon Schnitzer Family Foundation, Portland, OR Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo Tate Modern, London Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Deborah Wye's foreword to the 2005 edition is below.
For Louise Bourgeois, no artwork is ever finished. Her creative process continues as long as a piece is nearby. In fact, it is not uncommon for her to make alterations to a work even years after it was first conceived. Such variations reflect changes in emotions, but her subject remains the same, comprising what she calls a “drama of the self.” The parables and engravings that make up He Disappeared into Complete Silence originated in the mid-1940s, yet the concerns they address remain vivid to the artist. She had hoped to issue this work in an edition of 54 in 1947, but only a few sets were assembled then. The Museum of Modern Art acquired its copy at that time.
For over twenty years, Bourgeois has talked to this author about completing the project. The major stumbling block was that the copperplates for the illustrations were missing, while the texts remained waiting on her selves. Always hoping to find the plates, she even sent me out into her neighborhood in Chelsea to a location that had housed a printshop decades earlier, but with no luck. For Bourgeois, who is a born archivist and saves everything, this loss has been especially painful. In the 1980s and 1990s, she worked with several printers to remake the plates, finally settling on the Harlan & Weaver workshop.
The present edition combines text pages Bourgeois retained since the 1940s and engravings reworked from 1995 to 2002. This time, as promised when the 1947 edition was first announced, she made color additions to some of the images. What we have is a new artwork, with Bourgeois exploring ideas from years earlier. As she revisited these compositions, modifying proofs that Felix Harlan pulled at his workshop or on the old printing press rebuilt in her basement, she recognized familiar emotional terrain but responded subtly with new feelings. Her well-known anthropomorphic structures show an awakened confidence here, standing on a firm ground of tonal aquatint that was lacking in the 1947 renderings. Touches of blue on some examples add a calming effect and suggest a level of hopefulness gained from lived experience. Yet details of red on others speak of an inner violence that can erupt at any time. One entirely new engraving with drypoint from 2001—02 returns to the claustrophobic room found among the earlier images, but this time it is occupied by a spider, reminding us of the artist’s preoccupations of the 1990s.
He Disappeared into Complete Silence has long been a touchstone for understanding Bourgeois’s work as a whole. In it she combines written and visual narratives that reflect personal worlds yet articulate universal emotions, shifting from stories of vulnerability and despair to those of strength and will. This publication allows viewers to witness her reinterpretation of these recurring themes after over fifty years of experience and insight.
Bourgeois' entire text for this volume appears below.
Plate 1: Once there was a girl and she loved a man. They had a date next to the eighth street station of the sixth avenue subway. She had put on her good clothes and a new hat. Somehow he could not come. So the purpose of this picture is to show how beautiful she was. I really mean that she was beautiful.
Plate 2: The solitary death of the Wool- worth building.
Plate 3: Once a man was telling a story, it was a very good story too, and it made him very happy, but he told it so fast that nobody under- stood it.
Plate 4: In the mountains of Central France forty years ago, sugar was a rare product. Children got one piece of it at Christmas time. A little girl that I knew when she was my mother used to be very fond and very jealous of it. She made a hole in the ground and hid her sugar in, and she al- ways forgot that the earth is damp.
Plate 5: Once a man was waving to his friend from the elevator. He was laughing so much that he stuck his head out and the ceil- ing cut it off.
Plate 6: Leprosarium, Louisiana.
Plate 7: Once a man was angry at his wife, he cut her in small pieces, made a stew of her. Then he telephoned to his friends and asked them for a cocktail-and-stew party. They all came and had a good time.
Plate 8: Once an American man who had been in the army for three years became sick in one car. His middle ear became almost hard. Through the bone of the skull back of the said ear a passage was bored. From then on he heard the voice of his friend twice, first in a high pitch and then in a low pitch. Later on the middle ear grew completely hard and he became cut off from part of the world.
Plate 9: Once there was the mother of a son. She loved him with a com- plete devotion. And she protected him because she knew how sad and wicked this world is. He was of a quiet nature and rather intelligent but he was not interested in being loved or pro- tected because he was interested in something else. Consequently at an early age he slammed the door and never came back. Later on she died but he did not know it.
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