plate: 8 3/4 x 6 7/8" (22.2 x 17.5 cm); sheet: 9 13/16 x 13 3/8" (25 x 34 cm)
"Louise Bourgeois." lower right margin, pencil.
"monoprint" lower left margin, pencil, artist's hand; "Looking at me sideways / she said "would you / mind sweeping that / room over I see some/ dirt near the piano / upon my word of honour, / sir I could not possibly / do it here / title of two prints sold / by Jerry Gorovoy of / Max Hutchinson Gallery / in Sept 1980" left margin, pencil, artist's hand.
The alternate title "Le Grand Flottant" derives from an inscription on an impression of state XIII that is not in MoMA's Collection and is not included in the Evolving Composition Diagram below.
Changes from state IV, in engraving: small form at upper left further delineated; hair-like shading added to elongated leftmost form; shading added to two petal-like forms and crosshatching added to large crescent.
Bourgeois talked about this composition as one that moves "away from realism. It is more symbolic and suggestive, but with a base in reality." She noted that all the "rigidity" present in "He Disappeared into Complete Silence" has "become looser.... This has to do with security... the security of the nest that does not have to stand on the floor. It is safer to be above."
There is "the notion of constant danger... day to day... a fight against danger... and for living." There is the safety of "nesting together" and "the bondage of people who sleep together." She spoke of a pomegranate wherein the "seeds can be seen nestling." She recalled some of her plaster lair sculptures of the sixties such as "Fée Couturière," with its openings that "allow only a tiny bird to go in."
Discussing the title, Bourgeois described "self-improvement" as "an ascent... a ladder." But the sentiments reflected in this print are not about "perfection," only about "going toward improvement." (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 120.)
The inscription on this composition is a parable that is found in slightly varied forms in several places. The first line of the parable is the title of a separate composition, "Looking at Her Sidewise" (cat. no. 635). The whole parable also appears on "Hanging Weeds" (cat. no. 645) and in the artist's daybook of 1947.
The fragments of brown tape visible around the edges of this print appear to have been applied for the purpose of flattening the print as it dried.
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.
Acton, David. "Louise Bourgeois." In David Acton, The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionism. Worcester, MA: Worcester Art Museum, 2001, 78.
This text describes "Ascension lente" specifically as well as Bourgeois' printmaking career more generally.
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