Yet it was not until the French-born, American-based sculptor was 70 years old that her work became known to the wider art world. That recognition came when the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a solo show of her career in 1982.
The exhibition – the first retrospective the museum
had ever mounted of a female sculptor – led to an invitation to
represent the US at the 1993 Venice Biennale.
Best known for her giant metallic spider sculptures,
her work was influenced by surrealism, primitivism and such early
modernist sculptors as Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi.
When the Tate Modern opened in London in 2000, Bourgeois was commissioned to produce its first special exhibition.
Bourgeois created two giant towers for the opening of Tate Modern in 2000
Born in Paris in 1911, Bourgeois spent her early years studying at the Academie des Beaux-Arts and other schools and studios.She moved to New York in 1938 after marrying US art historian Robert Goldwater, becoming an American citizen in 1955.
It was there that she produced the bulk of her art, provocative works that explored the traumas of her childhood and sexuality.
Working in a wide variety of materials, she tackled themes relating to male and female bodies, anger and betrayal.
In many interviews, Bourgeois cited her father’s
adulterous affair with a woman named Sadie – hired to teach her English
– as a key inspiration.
“I always hated that woman,” she told the Washington Post in 1984. “My work is often about murder.”
One of her seminal works, The Destruction of the
Father, represents a dinner table headed by a tyrannical father whose
terrified family are driven to attack him.
The work – based on hunks of mutton and beef cast in
plaster and then covered in latex – was completed shortly after the
death of her husband in 1973.
The Destruction of the Father was first exhibited in 1974
In1997, she received a National Medal of Arts from US President Bill
Clinton. The same year she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall
Before her death, she had been actively involved in preparations for an exhibition of her work in Venice, due to open on Friday.
Bourgeois is survived by two sons, Alain and Jean Louis. According to her studio, a third son, Michel, died before her.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has paid tribute to a
“very great artist” who “never stopped creating and renewing herself in
Bourgeois, he continued, had been able to “reach a
higher truth, rich in its contradictions, avoiding the trap of the