(b Paris, 25 Dec. 1911; d New York, 31 May 2010).
French-born sculptor who became an American citizen in 1953. She began her career in the family tapestry restoration business, then studied at various art academies in Paris (her teachers included Léger). In 1938 she married the American art historian Robert Goldwater (1907–73) and settled in New York. During the 1940s she turned increasingly from painting and printmaking to sculpture, and in the 1950s she achieved recognition for her wood constructions painted uniformly black or white, which preceded the similar works of Louise Nevelson. Subsequently Bourgeois worked in various materials, including stone, metal, and latex, and she built up a reputation as one of the leading sculptors of her day. Although her work is predominantly abstract, it is often suggestive of the human figure, sometimes with sexual overtones and feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. These characteristics reflect her troubled childhood, when she was traumatized by her father's affair with her English governess: ‘My mind, as an artist, was conditioned by that affair, by my jealousy of that hated intruder.’ She continued to be vigorously active into old age: in 1993, for example, she represented the USA at the Venice Biennale; and for the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 she created a huge installation including a giant steel figure of a spider (Maman, 1999, artist's collection).