plate: 5 x 7 3/8" (12.7 x 18.7 cm); sheet: 8 x 10 3/8" (20.3 x 26.4 cm)
"Louise Bourgeois 1944" lower right margin, pencil.
"I am looking at you and you do not see me. / To Paul affectionatly. [sic]" lower middle margin, pencil, artist's hand.
The alternate titles are derived from the artist's inscriptions on known impressions of this composition. The alternate title, "Le Liseur," derives from an inscription on an impression of state VI that is not in MoMA's Collection and is not included in the Evolving Composition Diagram below.
Although there are 18 known impressions of the various states of "Youth," 3 have the following impression numbers: 5/7, 5/7, and 1/10.
In 1990, the plate for state X of this composition was printed by Piero Crommelynck, Paris, to consider for inclusion in a portfolio of prints by Bourgeois from the 1940s to be reissued under the title, "Quarantania." That portfolio of nine plates was published by Galerie Lelong, Paris, later in 1990, but did not include "Youth" since its plate was too corroded. An example of a reprint is seen in the Evolving Composition Diagram below. The 6th known impression of state X is also a reprint.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from state IX, in drypoint: rectilinear shape added to right of left figure; rectangular forms at lower right added; shading in crosses increased; hair of right figure thickened and lengthened.
Though Bourgeois most often depicted daily activities during the 1940s, she occasionally introduced people from her earlier life. Here, Bourgeois said, are her father and her brother. "These are people I like... This is a family that is locked together, but totally isolated. They try to communicate, but they get nowhere." About the female figure she said: "She is desperate here because she listens, but perceives that she's not hearing. There is a difference between listening and hearing. It is the same today: not to hear and not to be heard. I am so preoccupied that I cannot hear, in spite of an enormous effort." About the female figure in the print, she added: "Maybe she is withdrawn because she doesn't have a child; she must be preoccupied with that." (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 56.)
Although aquatint is usually undertaken in print workshops with specialized equipment, Bourgeois used the technique at home. A loose sheet written by her in the 1940s includes notes on the steps and materials needed for making aquatints. (The Easton Foundation: LB-1833)
Without the benefit of being able to examine this impression in person, MoMA's Conservation Department believes that the white areas in the center left and center composition are caused by an inking flaw that prevented the aquatint grain from holding ink.
Although this impression is dated "1944" by Bourgeois, it is not known exactly when it was made. The date span of 1941-1944 has been given to all known impressions of "Youth."
Paul Gardner is an American art critic and writer. He was a friend of Bourgeois and her husband, art historian Robert Goldwater. In 1994, Gardner published "Louise Bourgeois" a Universe Series on Women Artists book. Bourgeois was also featured in Gardner's 1996 documentary "Art City: Making It in Manhattan." The inscription to Paul was added later, as he and Bourgeois did not become friends until a later point in the artist's life.
Additional known drawings relate to this composition but were not available for reproduction. They can be viewed on microfilm at the Archives of American Art, reel 90, frames 5 and 11.
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