louise bourgeois in 1990 with her marble sculpture eye to eye (1970). © louise bourgeois photo: raimon ramis

the french born artist and sculptor louise bourgeois has died aged 98.

‘I am very sad to confirm that louise passed away this morning (may 31, 2010) at beth israel hospital after suffering a heart attack on saturday night,’ wendy williams, managing director of the louise bourgeois studio.

louise bourgeois 1911   2010 ‘maman’ (1994 to 2003) by louise bourgeois next to the guggenheim bilbao museum – image: afp

born in paris on december 25, 1911, bourgeois moved to the united states in 1938 where she produced the bulk of her emotionally powerful and provocative art which explored the traumas of her childhood and sexuality. her parents owned a studio that restored tapestries. she had a troubled relationship with her father, never forgiving him for his infidelity to her mother. bourgeois studied art in paris and in 1938 married american art historian robert goldwater and left for new york. she became a US citizen in 1951 and had three children before being widowed in 1973. she is survived by her two sons alain and jean-louis. her third son michel died in 1990.

louise bourgeois 1911   2010 ‘maman’ (1994 to 2003) by louise bourgeois outside the national gallery of canada – image: radagast‘her first two shows of sculpture were in 1949 and 1950, tall abstract figures in groups, a bit like giant clothes pegs, and carved in balsa wood because it was soft and possible to work without noise or dirt to disturb a young family. they might just have been inspired by giacometti, but in these as in all her other work she is a true original… after 1950 she went the full decade without showing, though MoMA bought one of her pieces; in 1960 she was in shows in paris and at the whitney. the museum of modern art gave bourgeois a retrospective in 1982, when she was already 70.

louise bourgeois 1911   2010 ‘arch of hysteria’ 1993 by louise bourgeois image: christopher burke

in the late 1990s she began using the spider as a central image’ and in recent years her work has been the focus of numerous exhibitions at the TATE modern, UK the guggenheim museum, new york among others.

read the guardian’s obituary

read the AFP obituary