Louise Bourgeois

Boy and Girl


Not on display

Louise Bourgeois 1911–2010
Drypoint on paper
Image: 98 × 62 mm
image: 90 × 56 mm
Purchased 1994


Boy and Girl is one in a portfolio of fourteen drypoint etchings collectively titled Autobiographical Series. It contains two separate images. On the left of the paper is the face of a little girl; on the right is the head and naked back of a little boy. The eyes of the girl are directed towards the boy as if she were looking at him. Several images in the series address issues around the complex and ambiguous dynamics of looking, through the depiction of moments remembered from the artist's past. Toilette (P77682) is an image of the artist as a young woman being spied on by a man as she washes her hair. The voyeur in this image cannot 'pull a fast one' (Bourgeois quoted in Wye, p.233) by remaining invisible: his face is reflected in the mirror above the naked young woman. Sleeping Man and Man, Keys, Phone, Clock (P77688-9) recall moments looking at men who, because they are sleeping, are vulnerable to the artist's female gaze. In a similar way, Boy and Girl subverts the gender stereotypes traditional to art in which the woman's naked body is looked at by a male subject. The recto-verso (left and right, back and front) nature of the composition suggest that the girl and boy depicted are two halves of a whole and that we are all potential voyeurs. As the artist has said: 'we are all vulnerable in some way, and we are all male-female' (quoted in Gorovoy, p.124).

Printmaking, like drawing, has been an important element in Bourgeois's artistic production. She first took it up in 1938, the year she moved to New York with her husband, the American art historian Robert Goldwater (1907-73). She experimented widely with techniques and effects, producing an important portfolio of etchings titled He Disappeared into Complete Silence (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) in the 1940s. After a long break she took up printmaking again in 1973, the year her husband died. In the late 1980s Bourgeois began collaborating with workshops and publishers. She started to rework and reprint some of her old plates and to create new portfolios. Many of the images in the Autobiographical Series had already appeared in earlier forms. They range broadly in time and concept, encompassing both specific memories and more abstracted and ambiguous states of being. The portfolio was published in an edition of thirty-five plus ten artist's proofs by Peter Blum Edition, New York, and printed by Harlan & Weaver Intaglio, New York. See Tate P77682-94 for the other images in the series.

Further reading:
Louise Bourgeois, Marie-Louise Bernadac, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997, London 1998
Jerry Gorovoy, Pandora Tabatabai Asbaghi, Paulo Herkenhoff, Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, exhibition catalogue, Fondazione Prada, Milan 1997
Deborah Wye, Carol Smith, The Prints of Louise Bourgeois, exhibition catalogue, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1994

Elizabeth Manchester
August 2001

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Gallery label, August 2001

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