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Cat. No. 507/I

The Burner

State I of III
Abstraction, Objects
Engraving, Relief
Engraving, printed in relief, with pink and orange crayon additions
Smooth, laid Japan paper
plate: 7 1/8 x 4 5/16" (18.1 x 10.9 cm); sheet: 11 13/16 x 6 5/16" (30 x 16 cm)
"Louise Bourgeois / 1948" lower right margin, pencil.
Verso: "The burner" left middle margin, pencil, artist's hand; "lead / the / burner" center sheet, pencil, artist's hand.
The artist at Atelier 17, New York
1 known impression of state I
Not numbered
Edition Information:
Not issued as a published edition at any state.

State III was reprinted in 1990 for possible inclusion in "Quarantania" portfolio, but rejected due to flattening of the lead plate.
Artist’s Remarks:
The burner of the title is a small (7 in.) Bunsen burner that remained in Bourgeois' possession until her death. During an interview for the 1994 catalogue, "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois," she located it and demonstrated its moveable parts. As she maneuvered it into different configurations, she said: "It almost looks like a gun." She then described an even smaller kind of burner that her family employed in the tapestry restoration business. It could be held in the hand and was used to burn fuzz off old and worn tapestries.
"The burner is the most dangerous thing on earth... it is connected to the gas line." This image is "an effort to transform the dangerous burner into a safe thing. It is a matter of controlling anger." In portraying the fact that the burner in the composition seems to merge with the houselike structure on the left (in states II and III), Bourgeois said: "This is an attempt at being friendly... at reconcoliation. The most beautiful thing in life is the moment of reconciliation. This is peacemaking... it is happiness without fanfare. If you know the Bunsen burner, you can regulate it." (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 115.)
Curatorial Remarks:
It appears that the 1948 impressions of this composition, printed in relief, were not run through a press. For the 1990 variant impression, the plate was inked as a traditional intaglio plate, left unwiped, and run through the press. This difference is most apparent in the plate mark and enlarged plate dimensions, both unique to the 1990 variant impression. The soft lead plate was flattened (and therefore enlarged) by the press.

In the second half of the 1940s, Bourgeois spent time at Atelier 17, the print workshop of Stanley William Hayter. The workshop had transferred operations from Paris to New York during the war years. It is not known precisely which prints she made at the workshop since she also worked at home on a small press. The designation of “the artist at Atelier 17” as printer means that the impression was likely made at the workshop. The designation is based on dates, inscriptions, techniques favored at Atelier 17, and/or stylistic similarities to images in the illustrated book “He Disappeared into Complete Silence,” which the artist repeatedly cited as having been made at Atelier 17. It is also possible that Bourgeois worked on certain plates both at home and at the workshop, or pulled impressions at both places.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 50
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:

The Burner
1948; reprinted 1990


Louise Bourgeois. The Burner. 1948
State I of III
Louise Bourgeois. The Burner. 1948
State II of III
Louise Bourgeois. The Burner. 1948
State III of III
Louise Bourgeois. The Burner. 1948; reprinted 1990
State III of III, variant
1948; reprinted 1990