Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Catherine-Marie-Agnès Fal (1930–2002) known as Niki de Saint Phalle was a French-American sculptor who created large-scale, colourful statues of voluptuous women known as “Nanas” and fantasy creatures. She grew up in New York where her father’s fortunes declined in the stock market collapse. She suffered sexual abuse by her father and turned to art to process her emotional turmoil. She was later expelled from school for painting the fig leaves on the school’s classical statues red. During her teens she became a fashion model, appearing on the cover of French Vogue and Life magazines. At 18, she married her childhood friend Harry Mathews. They had a daughter, Laura, and decided to leave the USA due to the tension caused by the McCarthy trials. They went travelling around Europe, but while living in Nice, Saint Phalle had a nervous breakdown. During her convalescence she had the time to develop her art. In 1954, the young family moved to Mallorca, Spain, where their second child, Philip, was born. She encountered the work of Gaudi, whose Parc Güell would later inspire her own garden exhibit, The Tarot Garden.
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