"EA III/X" lower left margin, pencil, unknown hand. "EA III/X" lower center colophon, pencil, unknown hand.
1 known impression of the only state, outside the edition.
The colophon for the “Quarantania” portfolio states that “some [compositions] are individually titled, sometimes with a few variations.” It appears that Bourgeois occasionally inscribed titles or alternative titles while she was signing the prints.
State Changes and Additions:
Matrices: In this impression, only plate 1 of the 2 plates were printed, probably because the second plate was lost.
Plate 1: linear compositional elements, printed in black. Plate 2: background delineating house shape, printed in orange.
Portfolio: Since Galerie Lelong was exhibiting Bourgeois's sculpture, Jean Frémon, a gallery director, proposed undertaking a print project with her. It was decided to reprint plates executed earlier and still in Bourgeois's possession, because this work was unknown to the public. In 1990, after the plates had been stored for more than forty years, they were newly printed by Piero Crommelynck, and published for this portfolio. Only "Quarantania" (9), titled "Bosom Lady" in the 1940s, was reworked in 1990 by the artist.
The 1990 reprints differ in appearance from the 1940s impressions, due to corrosion of the plates and accidental scratching over time. Also, professional printing with uniform inking and wiping creates a darker plate tone. The prints were gathered in a portfolio to represent the work from the 1940s, with the title "Quarantania," deriving from the French "quarante," meaning "forty."
In preparing this project, proofs were also pulled from other old plates in the artist's possession. However, the poor condition of those plates made it impossible to achieve acceptable impressions (see "Youth," 1941-1944; "Laurel Easton," 1944; "Dame," 1948; and "The Burner," 1948). Proofs were also pulled from a 1970s and a 1980s plate. These were editioned and published as "Spirales," c. 1974, and "Femme Maison," 1984. Bourgeois chose a cover resembling that of "He Disappeared into Complete Silence," 1947 because she saw "Quarantania" as a continuation of that work.
Arcueil, south of Paris, was a center for the leather industry, which made use of the water of the Bièvre River in the treatment and dying of leather. The Bièvre was important for Bourgeois because it flowed through Antony, where her family's tapestry restoration business used its water.
Bourgeois recalled that when she was twenty years old, and her mother had died, she was "absolutely lost." She took comfort in visiting her mother's grave, but her father mocked her grief. "When my father insulted me, I threw myself in the river." She pointed to the partially submerged head at the lower left, whose hairdo resembles her own during those years. "I went under the bridge. He ran after me and threw himself in to fish me out. Then he attacked me again. He said, 'What is the matter with you? Never do that to me again!'" She has also recounted a second life-threatening incident provoked by her despair and triggered by her father, which occurred in that period. "Twice it happened—twice it was the insensitivity of the father."
Bourgeois also talked about a "fear of injurious thrills... of danger... and at the same time, of a magnetic appeal." She pointed to some heads trapped under the bridge and some heads floating up. "It is not altogether negative. The ones going up will be saved... some escape... only a few are caught. Some are saved... some are damned." (Quotes cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 65.)
The 9 compositions that make up this portfolio can be exhibited together, in any order, or individually.
The alternate titles for this composition come from inscriptions on known impressions from the “Quarantania” portfolio.
The colophon for the “Quarantania” portfolio states that the plates were engraved by Bourgeois at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 workshop in 1947. However, dates for the compositions vary and the fact that all were engraved and printed at Hayter’s workshop could not be confirmed. At this time, Bourgeois also worked on prints at home with a small press.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 25
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (Impression no. 17/50)
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