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Born in Kalisz, Poland, to a Jewish family, Alina Szapocznikow (1926–1973) survived internment in a concentration camp as a teenager. Following World War II, she trained as a sculptor in Prague and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Plagued by illness for much of her life, Szapocznikow suffered from the then-untreatable disease tuberculosis and later breast cancer. The influence of pop art, surrealism and nouveau realism is prevalent throughout her works. Her sculptures explore the fragmentation of the human body, beginning with her early work in the 1960s, in which she produced casts of her own body in plaster, stone and bronze.