Lilac Sweep

About Helen Frankenthaler

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.

American, 1928-2011, New York, New York, based in New York and Darien, Connecticut

Group Shows on Artsy

2016
American women and abstraction, Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art, New York
2016
Sam Francis and Art of the Post-War Era, Christopher-Clark Fine Art, San Francisco
2016
Making Modern: Hofmann and the Next Generation, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston
2016
Women of Abstract Expressionism, Denver Art Museum, Denver
2016
Group Show, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
2016
Group Show, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
2015
PRETTY RAW: AFTER AND AROUND HELEN FRANKENTHALER, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Waltham
View Artist's CV