Helen Frankenthaler

American, 1928–2011

9.5k followers

Helen Frankenthaler

Bio

American, 1928–2011

Followers
9.5k
Biography

A second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter, Helen Frankenthaler became active in the New York School of the 1950s, initially influenced by artists like Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. She gained fame with her invention of the color-stain technique—applying thin washes of paint to unprimed canvas—in her iconic Mountains and Sea (1952), a motivating work for Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and other Color Field painters who emerged in the ’60s. Her own canvases, however, often evoked elements of landscape or figuration in the shaping of their forms. “My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates,” she once said. “They're not nature per se, but a feeling.” From 1958 to 1971, she was married to fellow Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell, who, like Frankenthaler, worked in symbolic painted gestures—only her paintings were almost always visibly improvised from start to finish. As poet and critic Frank O’Hara wrote in 1960, “she is willing to risk everything on inspiration.” In addition to painting, Frankenthaler also made ceramics, welded steel sculptures, and set designs, but the related medium that most attracted her, and in which her achievement came the closest painting, was printmaking—especially the creation of woodcuts, hers counting among the greatest of contemporary works in that medium.

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Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Blue chip status
Blue chip representation
Represented by internationally reputable galleries.
Auction
High auction record
$8m, Sotheby's, 2020
User
Solo show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 3 more
Group
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 7 more
Institution
Collected by a major institution
Tate, and 4 more
Publication
Reviewed by a major art publication
Artforum, and 4 more
Fair
Included in a major biennial
Venice Biennale National Pavilion, and 2 more
Biography

A second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter, Helen Frankenthaler became active in the New York School of the 1950s, initially influenced by artists like Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. She gained fame with her invention of the color-stain technique—applying thin washes of paint to unprimed canvas—in her iconic Mountains and Sea (1952), a motivating work for Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and other Color Field painters who emerged in the ’60s. Her own canvases, however, often evoked elements of landscape or figuration in the shaping of their forms. “My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates,” she once said. “They're not nature per se, but a feeling.” From 1958 to 1971, she was married to fellow Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell, who, like Frankenthaler, worked in symbolic painted gestures—only her paintings were almost always visibly improvised from start to finish. As poet and critic Frank O’Hara wrote in 1960, “she is willing to risk everything on inspiration.” In addition to painting, Frankenthaler also made ceramics, welded steel sculptures, and set designs, but the related medium that most attracted her, and in which her achievement came the closest painting, was printmaking—especially the creation of woodcuts, hers counting among the greatest of contemporary works in that medium.

Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Blue chip status
Blue chip representation
Represented by internationally reputable galleries.
Auction
High auction record
$8m, Sotheby's, 2020
User
Solo show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 3 more
Group
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 7 more
Institution
Collected by a major institution
Tate, and 4 more
Publication
Reviewed by a major art publication
Artforum, and 4 more
Fair
Included in a major biennial
Venice Biennale National Pavilion, and 2 more
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