Nov 22, 2019
News

Tate acquired its first Helen Frankenthaler painting, a gift from the artist’s foundation.

Helen Frankenthaler, Vessel, 1961. Oil on unsized, unprimed canvas. © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jordan Tinker, courtesy Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

Helen Frankenthaler, Vessel, 1961. Oil on unsized, unprimed canvas. © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jordan Tinker, courtesy Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

The Tate museum group has received a major gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation: Vessel (1961) is the first canvas by Helen Frankenthaler to enter any public art collection in London. The work is currently on view in an exhibition dedicated to the artist at Tate Modern.
Frankenthaler painted Vessel early in her six-decade career, using the “soak-stain” technique she had developed in the 1950s. By thinning oil paint to the consistency of watercolor and pouring it onto a canvas laid on the floor, the artist was able to create pools and lines of paint. Her work inspired later generations of artists, and helped transition Abstract Expressionism from a style based on emphasizing individual brush strokes to one based on color applied thinly to large area, a technique that came to be referred to as Color Field painting.
Vessel transforms our ability to represent postwar American abstraction, while also reflecting the vital contribution made by women artists, such as Frankenthaler, during a critical moment in art history,” Gregor Muir, director of Tate’s collection of international art, said in a statement.
Frankenthaler was one of the few female Abstract Expressionist painters recognized for her work during her lifetime. She established the New York-based Helen Frankenthaler Foundation before her death in 2011 to promote the visual arts and advance her own legacy. Vessel, along with four other works on loan from the foundation, are on view at Tate Modern until November 22, 2020.

Further Reading: How Helen Frankenthaler Pioneered a New Form of Abstract Expressionism