Proof not included in any known example of "He Disappeared into Complete Silence," first edition; and proof before the editioning of version 3, state II, in the second edition. Published examples of the first edition are identified by Example numbers in the Evolving Composition Diagram below. The published example of the second edition is the last entry in the Evolving Composition Diagram.
When Bourgeois began working on the second edition, she believed that all the original plates for this illustrated book were lost. She did, however, find the plate for version 1 of this composition. She asked Felix Harlan of Harlan & Weaver, New York to pull an impression from the plate, and even made a second state. The plate was distressed over time, however, and was found to be unsuitable for use in the second edition.
There is an additional known impression of this state in MoMA's Collection (Accession Number: 1319.2012). It is a 1993 reprint of the 1946-1947 plate. It is not illustrated due to its similarity to the impressions seen here.
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.
The printing plates for the nine illustrations no long existed, 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.
This structure is "open," with "a desire to be transparent... to be understood." Bourgeois contrasts it to the structures in the earlier plates, which are completely closed. "You must be transparent. You need to purge yourself... to say everything... that is healthy.... It is a move upward, toward expression." In later versions of the print there appears what Bourgeois characterizes as a "fire, raging inside.... There is danger, but everything is compartmentalized, so there is complete independence between the floors. It is accepted that things are off-balance. You can have a fire inside... an you can be at an angle... you will still be all right. Since you are transparent, people can read you and help you."
In talking generally about the whole suite of prints, Bourgeois said: "There is the presence of both closed and transparent moods. It is the swing of moods from night to morning. The distance between them is very great and there is a danger of cracking." (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 82.)
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).