Sculptor Louise Bourgeois dies aged 98: report

Tue Jun 1, 2010 10:56am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - French-born U.S. sculptor Louise Bourgeois, one of the world's most influential contemporary artists, died on Monday in Manhattan where she lived, the New York Times reported. She was 98.

The newspaper quoted Wendy Williams, managing director of the Louise Bourgeois Studio, as saying the artist died of a heart attack.

Bourgeois' works in a variety of media ranging from wood to steel to stone tended to center on the human form, although among her most instantly recognizable pieces were giant spider sculptures, some of which were three storeys high.

Tate Modern in London acquired one such work entitled "Maman," measuring more than nine meters tall and executed in 1999. A bronze version of Maman, which Bourgeois called "an ode to my mother," went on display outside the gallery in 2007.

The New York Times said her works "shared a set of repeated themes centered on the human body and its need for nurture and protection in a frightening world."

The artist said one of her main inspirations was her childhood in France, where she was close to her affectionate mother but was also unsettled by her father's marital infidelities including with her governess.

Her 1974 tableau "The Destruction of the Father" has been interpreted as an interpretation of a childhood fantasy in which a father figure is put on a table where it is dismembered and eaten by other members of the family.

Bourgeois moved to New York in 1938 after marrying a U.S. art historian, and her reputation gradually grew.

But it was not until the 1980s and 1990s, when she had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, that she began to be considered a major influence.

(Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison)

<p>A sculpture of a spider by Louise Bourgeois outside the Tate Modern in central London, October 3, 2007. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty</p>