54 announced (44 numbered: 1-15 with color additions; 10 H.C. lettered A-J) (See Edition Information)
“24” lower center colophon, black ink, unknown hand. (See Edition Information-IMPRESSION NUMBERS)
(SCROLL DOWN to sub-topic “KNOWN EXAMPLES” for a succinct listing of each example of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” noting special characteristics of each.)
The edition was not completed as announced on the colophon in 1947; it seems that few volumes were issued at that time. In research for this catalogue raisonné, 20 examples were identified either in person or by photographic images. One of these examples was purchased by the artist and later dismantled, leaving 19 existing examples.
Examples include those that are known to be, or are thought to be, issued in 1947 or thereabouts; these have been designated as “vintage” for cataloguing purposes. As of 2018, there are 10 known “vintage” examples. Others were put together by the artist in later years from texts and plates still in her possession; those are designated as “assembled.” As of 2018, there are 9 “assembled” examples; the artist put them together at various times (1 in 1972, 5 in the 1980s, 2 in the 1990s, 1 date unknown).
All examples of the book have been numbered for cataloguing purposes. Example 1 is in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was acquired in 1947, the year of publication. It is therefore designated as “vintage.” In addition, for documentation, it is considered the standard book against which other examples are compared. There are many variations in the known examples of the first edition, particularly for those designated as “assembled.” For details, see each example of the first edition.
PLATES: In “vintage” examples, the plates are in the same order as those in MoMA’s Example 1, but are of slightly varying versions and states. In “assembled” examples, the plates can differ from those in MoMA’s Example 1 in respect to those included, their sequence, their states or versions, and the use of colored paper. A further notable difference in some “assembled” examples is the inclusion of a plate designated as “Alternative Plate” and constituting a 10th plate. (See Example 12 [New York Public Library], Example 13 [National Gallery of Australia], Example 15 [Private Collection, Brooklyn], Example 16 [Bibliothéque nationale de France]). Bourgeois included the “Alternative Plate” in the entire second edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” published in 2005. (See Background.)
The cream paper color of the plates varies from example to example and within examples, ranging from a lighter to a darker cream. In one “vintage” example (Example 5 [Sotheby's, NY, 2009]), Plate 4 is printed on gray paper. In “assembled” examples, there are additional instances of plates occasionally printed on colored papers. Impressions of the plates also exist outside examples of the book; they include other versions, states, variants and, occasionally, colored papers.
The inking, wiping, and tone of the plates vary within examples, and from example to example. Although sets with color additions were announced on the colophon in 1947, apparently none were completed. Some impressions existing outside the book are hand-colored.
Individual impressions of various states of the plates are inscribed “1944,” “1946,” and “1947,” but cataloguers have determined that the group should be dated to 1946-47.
Later photogravure plates appear in two “assembled” examples: Example 16 (Bibliothéque nacionale de France) includes 1984 photogravures after 1947 engravings of Plate 3 and the “Alternative Plate.” Example 18 (Private Collection, Brooklyn) includes 1984 photogravures after 1947 engravings of Plates 1 and 3. (See Background.)
SIGNATURES AND PLATE NUMBERS: Bourgeois completed the signing of individual plates, and the inscribing of plate numbers, at different times, as evidenced by softer and harder pencils sometimes used from plate to plate, or to mark the “L” in “L. Bourgeois,” or the number after the word “Plate.” In “assembled” examples she sometimes wrote in ink or ballpoint.
There are often unsigned plates in “assembled” examples. The colophon can be signed by the artist and the author of the introduction, in ink, or by the artist alone, in pencil; there are “vintage” and “assembled” examples of both. Also, colophons in some “assembled” examples are unsigned.
PARABLE TEXT PAGES: In four “vintage” examples, there are extra parable text pages. In Example 1 (MoMA Collection), the extra pages were supplied by the artist to allow for the framing of all parables and plates together. The same was the case for Example 7 (Louise Bourgeois Trust). (Without extra texts, the printing on rectos and versos of various pages makes the framing of parables and plates together, impossible.) Example 5 (Sotheby’s, NY, 2009) and Example 9 (Beinecke Library, Yale University) also have extra parable text pages but it is not known why.
TEXT CHANGES: The printed text on the title page varies from that on the standard Example 1 (MoMA Collection) in one “vintage” example: Example 7 (Louise Bourgeois Trust). The name “MARIUS BEWLEY’ is in a different font; it is thinner and the letters are placed closed together. For “assembled” examples, there are presently no images available for the title pages of Example 11 (British Museum), Example 13 (National Gallery of Australia) or Example 16 (Bibliothéque nationale de France); Example 17 (Sotheby’s, New York. April 29, 2011 Sale) includes no text pages. The remaining “assembled” examples have standard title pages except for Example 14 (Toledo Museum of Art). In that example, the font for “MARIUS BEWLEY” differs from that on Example 1’s title page and matches the differing font in Example 7 (Louise Bourgeois Trust) described above. Also in Example 14, ‘’GEMOR PRESS” is in all caps and is in a thinner font than that on the standard title page. Finally, Example 14 has an extra title page, which appears to be a test sheet for different fonts and placements of elements.
The printed text on the dedication page is: “for/JEAN LOUIS”. “Jean-Louis” is the name of Bourgeois’s first biological son. Available photographic documentation of the known examples showed seven where Bourgeois has added a hyphen in black ink or in pencil between “JEAN” and “LOUIS”. They are: Example 3 (National Gallery, Washington), Example 5 (Sotheby’s, NY, 2009), Example 7 (Louise Bourgeois Trust), Example 8 (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Florence), Example 9 (Beinecke Library, Yale University), Example 10 (Christie’s, NY, 2018), and Example 18 (Private Collection, Brooklyn).
In some “vintage” examples, Plate 7 has a hand-written correction to the accompanying parable. The word “Then” in the seventh line is changed to the word “They,” with a “y” superimposed on the “n.” (See Example 3 [National Gallery, Washington], Example 5 [Sotheby’s, NY, 2009], Example 8 [Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Florence] and Example 14 [Toledo Museum of Art].) For “assembled” examples, not all parables could be examined so additional instances of this text correction may exist.
IMPRESSION NUMBERS: Some “vintage” examples are numbered on the colophon, some are not; the same is the case for “assembled” examples. Two examples, one “vintage” (Example 4 [ Private Collection, Colorado]), and one “assembled” (now dismantled by the artist) were both numbered “23”. It is likely that the colophon from the dismantled example was later incorporated into the second edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” (cat.no. 1229), in A.P. 4/12, where the original colophon is numbered “23.” Only one known example (Example 3 [National Gallery, Washington]) is lettered, referencing the colophon, which says: “…10 copies lettered A to J are not for sale.”
KNOWN EXAMPLES: If current (2018) ownership of an example is unknown, the entry begins with the auction and date when it was last sold.
In the following list, “BOUR” numbers are given. They are assigned to works by the Louise Bourgeois Studio and are usually not cited in this catalogue raisonné. The exception here is to provide a further level of identification for known example of this important volume.
1. THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK. (BOUR-0122). Vintage. 24/44. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Has extra text pages. -Includes pink paper wrap-around band.
2. LOUISE BOURGEOIS TRUST, NEW YORK. (BOUR-4021). Christie’s, New York. November 2, 1999 Sale. Vintage. 20/44. -Colophon signed by artist alone.
3. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, WASHINGTON. (BOUR- 13290). Vintage. “D”. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Plate 7 parable has hand-written correction.
4. PRIVATE COLLECTION, COLORADO. (BOUR-13554). Christie’s, New York. May 17, 1990 Sale. Vintage. 23/44. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction.
5. SOTHEBY’S, NEW YORK. OCTOBER 29, 2009 SALE. (BOUR-13701). Vintage. Not numbered. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Plate 4 printed on gray paper. -Plate 7 parable has hand-written correction. -Has extra text pages.
6. PRIVATE COLLECTION, NEW YORK. (BOUR-16169). Vintage. Not numbered. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Includes pink paper wrap-around band.
7. LOUISE BOURGEOIS TRUST, NEW YORK. (BOUR-2232). Sotheby’s, New York. November 12, 1994 Sale. Vintage. 18/44. -Colophon signed by artist alone. -Some differences in title page fonts. -Has extra text pages. -Used as basis for trade edition. (See Bibliography.)
8. BIBLIOTECA NAZIONALE CENTRALE DI FIRENZE, FLORENCE. (BOUR-13288). Vintage. 26/44. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Plate 7 parable has hand-written correction.
9. BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY, YALE UNIVERSITY. (BOUR-13283). Vintage.19/44. -Colophon signed by artist alone. -Has extra text pages.
10. CHRISTIE’S, NEW YORK. APRIL 20, 2018 SALE. (BOUR-13254). Vintage. Not numbered. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction.
11. BRITISH MUSEUM. (BOUR-0141). Assembled. 28/44. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Plates 2 and 7 not signed; Plate 6 not signed and not inscribed with plate number. -Plate 4 printed on brown/orange paper. -Housing has vivid red marbleized lining.
12. NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. (BOUR-6258). Assembled. Not numbered. -Colophon not signed. -Plates 8 and 9 not signed or inscribed with plate numbers. -Includes “Alternative Plate.” -Plates were basis for photogravures made for the Second Edition.
13. NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA. (BOUR-6260). Assembled. Not numbered. Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Several plates numbered differently from those in Example 1; several not signed and several not inscribed with plate numbers. -Includes “Alternative Plate.”
14. TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART. (BOUR-6262). Assembled. Not numbered. -Colophon signed by artist and author of introduction. -Some differences in title page fonts. -Has extra title page, with font and element differences. -Has extra Plate 5, not signed or inscribed with plate number. -Plate 7 parable has hand-written correction. -Includes very faded pink paper wrap-around band.
15. PRIVATE COLLECTION, BROOKLYN. (BOUR-15451). Assembled. Not numbered. -Colophon not signed. -Plate 1 is photocopy. -Plate 7 on larger-than-standard sheet and outside the book. -Plates 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 not signed; Plate 9 plate number inscribed on verso. -Includes photocopy “Alternative Plate.”
16. BIBLIOTHÉQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE. (BOUR-16407). Assembled. Not numbered. -Colophon not signed. -Plate 1 not inscribed with plate number. -Plate 3 is photogravure (See Background.); not signed or inscribed with plate number. -Plate 4 printed on orange/brown paper. -Includes photogravure “Alternative Plate.” (See Background.) -Includes very faded pink paper wrap-around band.
17. SOTHEBY’S, NEW YORK. April 29, 2011 Sale. (BOUR-15407). Plates only; no text. Assembled. Not numbered. -No colophon. -Several plates numbered differently from those in Example 1. -Plate 2 (on brown paper) is composition for Plate 5 in Example 1. -Plate 6 (on brown paper) is composition for Plate 4 in Example 1. -No housing.
18. PRIVATE COLLECTION, BROOKLYN. (BOUR-16178). Assembled.16/44. -Colophon signed by artist alone. -Plates 1 and 3 are photogravures. (See Background.) -Plate 2 not signed. -Plate 4 on brownish paper and not numbered. -Housing has no labels.
19. SWANN AUCTION GALLERIES, NEW YORK. Novemer 15, 2018 Sale. (BOUR-16494). Assembled. Not numbered. -Colophon signed by artist alone. -Plate 1 printed off-center, to right. -Plate 3 signed and inscribed with plate number; Plate 7 signed; others not signed or numbered. -Plate 4 printed on orange/brown paper. -Housing has no labels; has gray strip of paint at left front, near spine.
• SOTHEBY’S, NEW YORK. November 9, 1984 Sale. (BOUR-4390). Assembled. 23/44. -Acquired by the artist and dismantled; not illustrated here.
COMPARISON BETWEEN EXAMPLE 1, MoMA COLLECTION AND OTHER EXAMPLES: As stated, MoMA’s example was acquired in 1947, the year of publication, and is considered the standard book against which others are measured. That said, MoMA’s example has an extra set of text pages for three of Bourgeois’s parables that allow for the plates and parables to be framed together for exhibition. MoMA received its extra text pages from the artist in preparation for framing for the 1994 exhibition, “The Prints of Louise Bourgeois.”
PROVENANCE FOR EXAMPLE 1: Example 1 was purchased by The Museum of Modern Art from book dealer, Wittenborn & Co., New York, in 1947. Although the George Wittenborn Papers in the MoMA Archives indicate that Wittenborn’s company was known as Wittenborn & Schultz until 1956 (when it became Wittenborn & Co.), MoMA curatorial records say the book was purchased in 1947 by Wittenborn & Co. No explanation for this name discrepancy could be found.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from version 1: composition transferred to new plate in engraving. Changes from version 2, state III, by burnishing: shading removed from upper left part of structure.
12 unnumbered pp (including title, dedication, and introduction); 24 unnumbered pp (including “Nine Engravings” title, text pages, colophon, and back cover), with 9 plates interspersed.
Printer of Text:
Gemor Press, New York
Unbound. Beige linen cover (overall: 11 x 7 5/8 x 3/4” [28 x 19.4 x 1.9 cm]), with brown, very slightly textured paper lining and flaps to hold book in place. On the cover: off-white label, 2 5/8 x 2 ¾” (6.7 x 6.9 cm), printed in black: “LOUISE / BOURGEOIS.” On the spine: off-white label, 1/2” x 2 5/8” (1.3 x 6.8 cm), printed in black: “BOURGEOIS;” off-white label, ½ x 5/8” (1.2 x 6.8 cm), printed in black: “GEMOR.” (For any variations in housing see individual examples.)
This example includes a pink paper wrap-around band, 4” (10.2 cm) high, intended to encircle the cover, printed in black: “9 original line engravings by LOUISE BOURGEOIS / with an introduction by MARIUS BEWLEY / edition limited to 44 signed copies.”
Bourgeois’s diaries indicate that early in 1947, with the hope of making her work more widely known, she decided to assemble an illustrated book with prints she had made at the Atelier 17 workshop. Her first concept was a seven-print portfolio titled "Les Sept Jours de Ia Semaine" (The Seven Days of the Week). She writes that her ideal publisher would have been Caresse Crosby's Black Sun Press. Remembering that in the 1990s, she laughed and said, "that was a fantasy,'' since Crosby was so well known and Bourgeois was at an early stage of her career.
In her diary, Bourgeois also recounts meetings with poet and literary scholar, Marius Bewley, who wrote the introduction to “He Disappeared into Complete Silence.” They discussed titles of prints and parables to accompany them. Finally, plate numbers were used for the individual prints rather than titles. Two phrases incorporated in the book in lieu of full parables are mentioned in the back-and-forth with Bewley. They are: "The Solitary Death of the Woolworth Building” (accompanying Plate 2) and "Leprosarium Louisiana" (accompanying Plate 6). Titles mentioned but not ultimately used were "Visitors,'' "Maison sans Yeux" (House without Eyes), and "Manhattan Island."
It seems that the book’s overall title, “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” was first considered as the title for an individual print. Notes also suggest that more than the final nine prints were contemplated; Bourgeois mentions at least twelve additional titles and seven additional brief parables. Some of those titles are "Slow Pulse,'' "The Field Has Been Plowed,'' "Oily Body,'' "X Rays,'' and "Insomnia." In the 1990s, she confirmed that she had originally considered several other compositions for inclusion, remembering, in particular, “L'Allée Montante” (The Uphill Path) (cat. no. 558), “Pont Transbordeur” (Drawbridge) (cat. no. 523), “Le Phare” (The Lighthouse) (cat. no. 644), and “Sacs Ouvert” (Open Sacks) (cat. no. 675). (Related inscriptions appear on these prints.)
In addition to her discussions with poet and scholar, Bewley, Bourgeois sought advice from Alfred H. Barr, Jr., founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, and a friendly acquaintance in this period. In a letter, Barr suggested a revision of the parable accompanying Plate 8, but Bourgeois did not incorporate it. Barr was an early supporter of Bourgeois's work, acquiring an example of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” for MoMA’s Collection in 1947, as well as a 1950 sculpture “Sleeping Figure,” in 1951. In the illustrated book “the puritan”, of 1990 (cat. no. 1072-1079), Bourgeois’s text is a 1947 story she had written about Barr, but she does not name him.
It is clear that “He Disappeared into Complete Silence” was an enormous effort for Bourgeois, preoccupying her throughout 1947. There are diary notes about visits to the Print Room of the Brooklyn Museum to study the construction of portfolios; she describes the important features of flaps, covers, and so on, also noting that, "The text should go along with the pictures." She later remembered that with all the organizational aspects of the project, and with the effort needed to finish a relatively large quantity of prints, her final decisions regarding the sequence of plates, and the pairings of images and particular texts, were made in great haste.
In her 1948 diary, there are references to Bourgeois’s attempts, after the project was completed, to bring it to the attention of critics, among them art critic, Clement Greenberg, and literary critic, Philip Rahv, as well as to a broader art public. Some books were left with book dealers Georges Wittenborn and Harold E. Briggs; others were given away. An off-pink postcard order form exists in two versions: in one, the printed address of Wittenborn is on one side and that of Briggs on the other, along with ordering instructions and pricing at $20. The other version has a separate card for each dealer, with an image of Plate 6 on the verso. Finally, Bourgeois took out ads in “Partisan Review,” vol. 16: No. 3 (March 1949), No. 8 (August 1949), and No. 9 (Sept. 1949). The ad includes a detail of Plate 6 and the information that the volume (limited and signed) was for sale for $20 at Betty Parsons Gallery, 15 E. 57 St, NYC.
The announced edition of the book was not completed in 1947. This frustrated Bourgeois and, much later, in the early 1980s, she began efforts to reissue this work, hoping to complete the edition she had begun so many years earlier. The printing plates no long existed, so she set about producing new ones. She worked first, in 1984, with printer Deli Sacilotto, director of Iris Editions, New York, to create photogravures of 1947 engravings of Plate 1, Plate 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, she finally turned the project over to printer Felix Harlan of Harlan & Weaver, New York. He made reprints of some 1984 photogravures and 1990 engravings. 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. Ultimately, over many years, he coordinated and printed the second edition of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence.” It was finally published in 2005 to benefit the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (cat. no. 1229).
For Bourgeois, the early Plates 1, 2, and 3 had something of an “architectural idealism,” while the later plates have more “realism.... The mood starts out very fine, but it declines... it goes down and down.”
About Plate 1, Bourgeois said: “This shows how beautiful you are... you are quite perfect... quite a dish!... But even though she looks great, it is a façade. This is only the outside; the inside is something different. One can compensate for low self-esteem by doing something with the outside. But even with this great dignity, at the end the person disintegrates. There is always the feeling that something will give way. It is never too secure.” (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. “The Prints of Louise Bourgeois.” New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 76.)
This example is accompanied by two off-pink order form postcards. One is printed with the address of book dealer Harold E. Briggs and ordering and price ($20) information on one side, and an image of Plate 6 on the other side. The other is printed with the address of book dealer George Wittenborn on one side and the printed address of book dealer Harold E. Briggs on the other; each side also has ordering and price ($20) information.
In Wye and Smith, "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois," 1994, p. 77, this impression was catalogued as state III. A preceeding state has since been found, and this impression is now state IV.
Marius Bewley (American, 1918-1973), author of the 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.)
Most books and catalogues surveying Bourgeois’s work include a discussion of “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” as well as illustrations of some, if not all, plates and parables.
Other references of note: Bourgeois, Louise. “He Disappeared into Complete Silence.” Paris: Éditions Dilecta, 2008. Trade edition. Edition: 2000. (This edition was made from Example 7 [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: Fantastic Reality.” In “Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art.” Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2005, pp. 83-117.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 29.2
MoMA Credit Line:
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Louise Bourgeois Trust, New York (Example 2) National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Example 3) Louise Bourgeois Trust, New York (Example 7) Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Florence (Example 8) Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven (Example 9) British Museum, London (Example 11) New York Public Library (Example 12) National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (Example 13) Toledo Museum of Art (Example 14) Bibliothéque nationale de France, Paris (Example 16)
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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