NEW YORK - Louise Bourgeois, 98, whose sculptures exploring women's deepest feelings on birth, sexuality, and death were highly influential on younger artists, died Monday, her studio's managing director said.
Ms. Bourgeois had continued creating artwork - her latest pieces were finished just last week - before suffering a heart attack Saturday night, said the studio director, Wendy Williams. The artist, who lived in Manhattan, died at Beth Israel Medical Center there.
Working in a wide variety of materials, she tackled themes relating to male and female bodies and emotions of anger, betrayal, even murder. Her work reflected influences of surrealism, primitivism, and the early modernist sculptors such as Giacometti and Brancusi.
"I really want to worry people, to bother people," she told the Washington Post in 1984. "They say they are bothered by the double genitalia in my new work. Well, I have been bothered by it my whole life. I once said to my children, 'It's only physiological, you know, the sex drive.' That was a lie. It's much more than that."
Her work was almost unknown to the wider art world until she was 70, when New York's Museum of Modern Art presented a solo show of her career in 1982.
Art critic Robert Hughes called her "the mother of American feminist identity art."
Among the honors coming to her were a National Medal of Arts, awarded by President Bill Clinton in 1997. In October, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
In 2007-08, a retrospective of her career, from the 1940s onward, was displayed at the Tate Modern in London, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Younger artists cited her as an inspiration.
"I orbited Bourgeois," conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, known for her piquant use of words as art in projections and electronic displays, wrote to Williams after learning of Ms. Bourgeois' death.
In many interviews, Ms. Bourgeois cited a childhood trauma as the source of much of the emotion in her work: her father's affair with a woman hired as an English tutor for young Louise.
"You see, I always hated that woman," she told the Washington Post. ". . . My work is often about murder."
In an e-mail exchange in early 2008, the Associated Press asked the artist what advice she would give young artists starting out.
"Tell your own story, and you will be interesting," she wrote. " . . . Don't let anything come between you and your work."
She was born in Paris in 1911; her parents ran a business restoring antique tapestries. In her early years, she studied at the Academie des Beaux-Arts and other schools and studios.
She moved to New York in 1938 after marrying the American art historian Robert Goldwater and became an American citizen in 1955.
Her husband died in 1973. She is survived by sons Alain and Jean-Louis, as well as two grandchildren and a great-grandchild. A third son, Michel, died in 1990, Williams said.
See a slideshow of
the artist's work via http://go.philly.com/louise EndText