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Cat. No. 572/III

Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well

State III of III
The View from the Bottom of the Well (View All)
Faces & Portraits
Drypoint, with selective wiping
Smooth, wove Somerset paper
plate: 8 1/2 x 6 1/4" (21.6 x 15.8 cm); sheet: 13 x 10 1/4" (33 x 26.1 cm)
"LB" right lower margin, pencil.
Peter Blum Edition, New York
Harlan & Weaver, New York
25; plus 10 H.C.
"IV/X" left lower margin, pencil, unknown hand.
Edition Information:
There are 2 known variant impressions of state III, outside the edition.
State Changes and Additions:
Changes from state II, in drypoint: neck, eyes, and mouth further delineated.
Artist’s Remarks:
About the source drawing for plate 2 of 9, Bourgeois said: "We lived in Easton, where there was no city water and we were totally dependent on the well. The water table was low in Easton, so the well was quite deep.
The guilt feeling and the severity that inhabited the house were expressed by, 'You better be good or I'll push you down the well.' You see, that was the ultimate punishment. Certainly, I didn't push anybody into the well, but look at these here, one and sons Jean-Louis and Alain. I did something wrong and sure enough, they pushed me in. I'm not accusing them....
The figure is screaming at the bottom of the well.
We have tunnel vision and we have bottom-of-the-well vision. If you visualize yourself down there, the question is, how are you going to get out? This philosophy is an optimistic philosophy. By hook or by crook, you are going to get yourself out. And I always did. But how? By drawing." (Quote cited in Bourgeois, Louise and Lawrence Rinder. "Louise Bourgeois Drawings and Observations." Berkeley: University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive University of California, Berkeley; Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1995, p. 76.)

"When you are at the bottom of the well, you look around and you say, who is going to get me out? In this case, Jerry [Gorovoy, the artist's assistant,] comes and he presents a rope, and I hook myself on the rope and he pulls me out. You see I can conceive of a way of getting out of the well. I'm not drowning. I'm just waiting for somebody." Interview with Lawrence Rinder, 9 May 1995 (Quote cited in Morris, Frances. "Louise Bourgeois" London: Tate Modern, 2007, p. 150.)
Installation Remarks:
This composition is one of 9 that constitute a single work of art. All of these compositions are to be exhibited together in a single line and in the indicated sequence. If the prints cannot be installed in a single line, a grid is also acceptable.
Curatorial Remarks:
In 1941, Bourgeois and her family purchased a small country house in Easton, Connecticut, which remains in the family.

Despite the publisher's note on the colophon, no plates in this portfolio have aquatint.

A version of the accompanying text is reproduced in Marie-Laure Bernadac and Hans-Ulrich Obrist's "Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews, 1923-1997." London: Violette, 1998, pp. 343-346. The version reproduced in the book includes the following lines not included in the portfolio version: "First I cannot be concentrique. Second I cannot be eccentrique, no energy. The writing of this was very concentrique but showed misconcentration." on p. 343.
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich, Switzerland
National Gallery of Canada, Ontario, Canada
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
New York Public Library, NY

Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well

sketchbook date: 1950s-1980s

NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, no. 28 of 34, from the sketchbook, Album à Dessin. sketchbook date: 1950s-1980s
NOT IN MoMA'S COLLECTION Untitled, no. 28 of 34, from the sketchbook,...
Ink and pencil on paper
sketchbook date: 1950s-1980s


Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well. 1995
State I of III
Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well. 1995
State II of III
Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well. 1995
State III of III, variant
Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well. 1995
State III of III, variant
Published Louise Bourgeois. Untitled, plate 5 of 9, from the portfolio, The View from the Bottom of the Well. 1996
State III of III


Louise Bourgeois. The View from the Bottom of the Well. 1996
The View from the Bottom of the Well
More About This Work

Louise Bourgeois,

The View from the Bottom of the Well,

New York, Peter Blum Edition, 1996

I cannot concentrate on the “hear” and now. I cannot concentrate on the here and now. On you. I cannot concentrate on the here and now, be concentrique. You cannot concentrate on the “hear” and now. You are not looking at me. Your eyes are trembling. You are trembling. Your gaze is nowhere. Your hands are trembling, your legs are cold, and your eyes are trembling more and more. I want to concentrate on your fearful face because I feel you trying to escape, to get into orbit, and to leave, but there is nowhere to go.

I cannot concentrate because I just hate it, anywhere but here. Is it fear? Fear of what? I am not actively or passively fearful, I am as tight as a knot and as hard as stone. I know enough not to talk. What for? Talk at the antipodes of what I want? No thank you. The humming bird is my friend I am a humming bird. The present minute is all important, but I do not care. I want out. That is why I cannot concentrate. From inside I feel propulsed out. Anything, anyone, anywhere will do, in order to be away…from what? From yourself, a thought, a wish, a need, a must of some kind. This revelation is anti-object. In that state if I call you I do not relate to you (any phone number would do). I relate to the avoided. I write this as an escape from expectation.

I cannot get out of the house. I want to. I have to. I would like to. I was planning to, but I gave up at the last minute. It would help to be completely ready, waiting by the door, it would make things easier: some nice feelings will help, familiar, friendly place to go to, no trust, no lift, the disappearance of the love object.

What can I do for you? This is the password.

What can I do? What can I do for you, Dialogue, listen, listen and learn. I have fallen from Grace. I panic in my fear of not being able to help. I panic, I am afraid, made frantic in my despair or desir or desperate wish to help [sic]. I want I want I want I want at all cost to impress the person who needs help. It is indispensable to understand the challenge, the irresistible want or need, to absolutely prove that I can save a soul from suffering. This is it: the challenge to defend someone. Père gardez vous à droite. Père gardez vous à gauche J’acheverai mon salut en sauvant quelqu’un. Peut-être en sauvant un ou une perdue, damnée, blessée, mourrant je suis la serveuse et c’est mon destin. Le remplirai-je ou non l’évangelisme est mon salut. Incroyable mais vrai. Do you hear, parle français, l’appel au secours, sauvez-moi, c’est le cri qui me challenge, c’est derrière l’attrait de la restauration, reparation, self-defeatism. Sauvez-moi du suicide, sauvez de la noyade, sauvez-moi s’il vous plaît de ces mauvaises habitudes, de mes fautes, de ma maladie, de ma defaite, de mon malheur, de mon destin. Je vous aimerai et je vous sauverai de votre propre pessimisme. C’est le prix du self-estime, c’est la rançon du pardon, vous serez pardonneur aura vous mériterez votre salut si vous sauvez une autre. Vous voyez les reverberations de cette admission de peine je suis tombée en disgrace, c’est le pire, c’est la chute, c’est fini, sauve moi. Un éclair une décharge éléctrique me passe entre les deux tempes et la challange est expériencée comme une terreur, c’est le chapitre de la Peur qui me revient la peur ou plutôt la terreur me terrace, me confuse et me rend spinning around et totalement dépourvue. Il n’est pas question d’apprendre car je suis totalement détruite par la peur, je suis agressée par la devorante, c’est incroyable mais c’est vrai. A ce moment je veux compenser et impressionner les gens, je suis de l’autre côté du désespoir, et cela m’arrive quatre fois par jour, j’en ai marre, je veux abandonner et ne voir personne, fuir, boucle, bonsoir. The system.

I learn, I learned, I learned, I learned, I learned, I learned, I learned, you blew it. I learned a lot, I learned something, I did learn. Did you? I learned today, and it made my day. I learned a lesson, I feel better, to learn. I learn, you learn, he learns, you learn, we learn, they learn, we learn together, and we begin to understand each other. Make no demand on me the way I make no demand on you. Let us just learn a little every day, try to. It is so difficult to learn. What keeps us from learning? Be in a learning spirit, do not be afraid to spend time learning. You have lots of time, I have lots of time, we have lots of time. If we just learn nothing will go wrong. Just be receptive, just be accepting, just be tolerant, just be self-loving, not self-indulgent, not selfish, but self-respecting, self-forgiving, self-relating, self-undemanding, self-repeating, self-unafraid, self-trusting, and learning will be less difficult. Do not pass judgment, wait and see. Give it a chance, try again, so many chances, so much time, so much patience, give yourself a chance, as you give them a chance, endless chances, every day is a new chance, tomorrow too a whole life time of chances, no reason to despair, no reason to be finding complaining, pushing, wanting, extracting from the others or yourself. The others do not judge you, they do not even know that you are there, no one is against you, do not worry, you are not that compelling. Who are they to judge you? They do not know enough, they are going to learn about you, and so they will begin to understand you. To understand is to forgive - no problem - but you certainly have to learn, to understand and that is truly difficult - whether it is mysterious, complicated, heavy duty, or weird. To learn is difficult, but it is rewarding. Try again, and start again tomorrow and cry if you have to. Learn to learn. Do you like to learn? Are you good at it? Do you get there? Learn for the sake of learning for itself, be crafty at it. Do you have the knack to learn to discover, to uncover, to turn upside-down and side-up again. To deconstruct and reconstruct, to make sense out of the unlikely, learn to answer, to question to make out the other one for the sake of discovering, not telling anybody that you progressed step by step, from position to position, you put the puzzle together. You learn for yourself not for the others, not to show off, not to put the other one down. Learning is your secret; it is all you have. It is the only thing you can call your own, nobody can take it, and remember ignorance is no excuse, you better learn or else.

Translation of the French portion embedded in this text is as follows: Father, look out to the right. Father, look out to the left I shall accomplish my salvation by saving someone. Perhaps by saving a lost soul, someone damned, wounded, dying I am the waitress and that is my destiny. Whether I fulfill it or not evangelism is my salvation. Incredible but true. Do you hear, speak French, the cry for help, save me, it’s the cry that challenges me, it’s behind the appeal of restoration, reparation, self-defeatism. Save me from suicide, save from drowning, save me please from those bad habits, from my faults, from my illness, from my defeat, from my unhappiness, from my destiny. I will love you and save you from your own pessimism. That is the price of self-esteem, the ransom of pardon, you will be pardoned you will deserve your salvation if you save someone else. You see the reverberations of that admission from torment I fell into disgrace, that’s the worst, that’s the fall, it’s over, save me. A flash of electrical discharge passes between my two temples and the challenge is experienced as a terror, it’s the chapter of fear that comes back to me Fear or rather terror lays me low, confuses me and leaves me spinning around and totally bereft. There’s no question of learning because I am totally destroyed by fear, I am assailed by the devourer, it’s incredible but it’s true. At this moment I want to make it up to people and impress them, I am on the far side of despair, and that happens to me four times a day, I’ve had enough, I want to give up and see no one, run away, wrap up, good night. (Translated by Caroline Beamish and David Britt. Cited in Bernadac, Marie-Laure and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Editors. “Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews, 1923-1997." London: Violette, 1998, p. 346.)