Helen Frankenthaler

Alternative Name(s): -
Date of Birth: December 12, 1928
Place of Birth: Manhattan, New York City, NY, USA
Date of Death:
Focus: Painter
Art movement: Abstract Expressionism, Color Field
Nationality: American

Famous Helen Frankenthaler Artwork

Helen Frankenthaler Biography

“Known as a foremost Abstract Expressionist and the wife of Robert Motherwell during the expansion of the movement, Helen Frankenthaler departed from the group towards her own path of lyrical, emotional and nature-based explorations. Her technique of pouring color onto raw canvas, known as staining, had a strong influence on the art of the mid-twentieth century. As a second generation Abstract Expressionist, her influences included Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollack and Clement Greenberg. Her breakthrough work contributed to the Color Field association of abstraction.

As a New York City native, born to a wealthy family, Frankenthaler studied with Rufino Tamayo in New York and then at Bennington College. Early in her career, she was introduced to the works of Franz Kline, a first generation Abstract Expressionist. Later, having an affair with the important art critic Clement Greenberg, her friends included Jackson Pollack and David Smith.

Her first inclusion in an exhibition was in 1952, when her painting, “”Mountains and Sea”" was seen by Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. As her staining technique evolved, influences such as Gorky and MirĂ³ could be discerned.

Frankenthaler remarked, “”What concerns me when I work, is not whether the picture is a landscape, or whether it’s pastoral, or whether somebody will see a sunset in it. What concerns me is – did I make a beautiful picture?”"

Water-down oil and later, water-down acrylic became the mark of her work; the entire canvas is conceived as a field, spread beyond the canvas’s edge, resulting in the term Color Field.

Frankenthaler’s work includes the medium of woodcuts as well; she is remembered as an important contributor to 20th century art.”