In August 2009 the NGV launched a new supporters group for the Prints and Drawings collection and, to mark the occasion, two longstanding patrons, Eric Harding and Athol Hawke, donated Paris Review by Louise Bourgeois. This print by the French-born sculptor, painter and printmaker was based on a drawing that Bourgeois created just prior to her representation at the Venice Biennale in 1993. Named after Paris Review, an arts journal established in 1953, the artist has inverted and reproduced the original drawing on a larger scale in lift-ground aquatint and drypoint. Compulsive and prolific in her daily drawing practice, many of Bourgeois’s abstract works use the motifs of circles, lines and points. This work is unique in that the artist has added white gouache to emphasise the energy and concentric movement of the printed forms.
During the lead-up to the biennale, Bourgeois was extensively interviewed, photographed and filmed by the media. Overwhelmed, the artist described her psychological state at the time: ‘This is the pomegranate … it is the movement of twisting and squeezing out of the juice of the pomegranate. All those interviewers squeezed me to exhaustion’. The flow of organic lines and upturned teardrops in Paris Review allude to this extracting process. Bourgeois was also interested in the Rorschach effect, the inkblot test devised to analyse personality types and divergent emotional responses in people.
Before moving to New York in 1938, Bourgeois associated with Marcel Duchamp and the French Surrealists. Drawing on her subconscious for much of her imagery, the artist has invited a psychological interpretation of her works based on the theoretical frameworks of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Memory, identity and familial connections are also suggested in the fragile elements of Cell (glass spheres and hands) 1990–93 – another work by Bourgeois in the Gallery’s collection.
Since 1965 the Paris Review has published editioned works by noted artists to raise revenue. Bourgeois was commissioned in 1992 to submit a work for a limited print edition that was then featured on the Spring 1994 cover of the journal. Created late in Bourgeois’s career when her international media profile was high, Paris Review complements the ten intaglio prints from The view from the bottom of the well series, 1996, and Ste Sébastienne, 1992, already held by the NGV.
Eric Harding and Athol Hawke have been patrons of the department since the mid 1990s. They collect both Australian and international works on paper and have generously donated more than three dozen works from their collection to the Gallery. These include prints by the American artists James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt, and prints and drawings by Australians Rosslynd Piggott, Stephen Haley, Kate Beynon and Brent Harris.
Allison Holland, Curator, Prints and Drawings, NGV (in 2010)