Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 16:33 UK

US sculptor Louise Bourgeois dies aged 98

Louise Bourgeois with one of her famous spider sculptures

French-born American sculptor Louise Bourgeois has died in New York, at the age of 98.

Based in New York since 1938, Bourgeois gained fame late in her long career and kept working to the end of her life.

Her giant spider sculptures have been exhibited around the world and earned her the nickname of Spiderwoman.

Her abstract explorations of themes such as birth, sexuality and death made her one of the world's most influential contemporary artists.

Bourgeois suffered a heart attack two days ago.

Although she had long been regarded by her contemporaries as one of the world's most important artists, it was not until her 70s that she began to attract a wider audience.

French-born artist Louise Bourgeois' sculpture of a giant spider outside Tate Modern in London in October 2007
Bougeois titled this 30-ft (nine-metre) tall spider "Maman"

Her spider sculptures - some of which are three storeys high - have been exhibited around the world, including the Tate Modern in London.

In a statement, the gallery said: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Louise Bourgeois this weekend. Always at the forefront of new developments in art, she pursued a wholly personal path and was powerfully inventive, working in dialogue with the major avant-garde movements of her time.

"Her death is a great loss."

Bourgeois' vast installation, I Do, I Undo, I Redo, was the first commission in The Unilever Series for Tate Modern.

Her sculpture of a giant spider, Maman, was part of the Unilever Series at the gallery which greeted the very first visitors in 2000.

Tate Modern visitors discuss Bourgeois

Ann Coxon, assistant curator at Tate Modern, said: "Apart from its overwhelming physical presence, the interesting thing is that Louise associated the spider with her mother - a tapestry restorer - a very industrious woman always spinning or weaving.

"So for Louise, the spider is a very positive feminist statement."

'Enormously significant'

The artist said her main inspiration came from her childhood in France, where her father had an affair with her governess, which her mother refused to acknowledge.

She also used her own clothes as the basis for a series of bronzes.

Three Horizontals
Bourgeois' Three Horizontals was shown at the Pompidou Centre in 2008.

Artist Richard Wentworth, from the Royal College of Art, called the sculptor "enormously significant".

He added: "She connected the intensely private act of being an artist with the intensely public act of developing a worldwide audience.

"To have worked constantly for so long and so publicly - is in a field of its own. There are very few female artists who make it to later life and it's very tough to be a woman artist or sculptor."

Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer said she "orbited Bourgeois" and that "my artist friends and I are crying today".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also paid tribute to Bourgeois, calling her "a very great artist" who "never stopped creating and renewing herself in her art".

Bourgeois had been able to "reach a higher truth, rich in its contradictions, avoiding the trap of the latest trends," he added.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand spoke of his sadness, saying in a statement that the world had lost "a great artist, indomitable and universal".

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Irish Times Artist's web of female issues - 14 hrs ago
The Scotsman Obituary: Louise Bourgeois - 15 hrs ago
Telegraph Louise Bourgeois - 20 hrs ago
Reuters UK Sculptor Louise Bourgeois dies aged 98 - 23 hrs ago
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Sculptor Louise Bourgeois dies aged 98 - NYT - 24 hrs ago

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