Helen Frankenthaler United States, 1928-2011


Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928; New York, New York; d. 2011, Darien, Connecticut) was a leading figure of American post-war art. Her painting career began in 1950 when Abstract Expressionist artist Adolph Gottlieb chose her composition Beach from that year for an exhibition at the Kootz Gallery in New York. Frankenthaler is considered instrumental in the transition between the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field Painting movements. Her language of abstraction finds echoes in the work of key Abstract Expressionist artists like Jackson Pollock and Hans Hoffman (with whom Frankenthaler studied) and served as a primary influence for the Color Field style championed by artists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. Frankenthaler is best known for her breakthrough soak-stain technique in which she added turpentine to oil and acrylic paint to reach an aqueous consistency reminiscent of watercolor. The ethereal, almost sheen texture of her soak-stain paintings emphasizes the flatness of the canvas while also building a complex depth within the visual field. The final compositions visually trace the fluid movement of the paint she poured onto her canvases laid horizontally on the floor. Wholly expressive and bursting with emotive color, Frankenthaler’s work remains central to the history of modernist painting and continuously influential to contemporary artists. Frankenthaler has had major retrospectives at The Jewish Museum, New York; The Whitney Museum, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Her work is held in the permanent collections of prestigious global institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.