Helen Frankenthaler (1929 – 2011) was an influential American artist of the post-war period. She began her career as a painter in the 1950s after having studied with renowned painters Rufino Tamayo, Paul Feeley, and Hans Hofmann. Inspired by Jackson Pollock and the Abstract Expressionist movement, she developed a unique way of pouring paint onto an unprimed canvas, using thinned paints that soaked into the surface to create large, watercolor-like paintings. Mountains and Sea (1952) was the first painting with which she used this technique and has become perhaps her most well-known painting. By inspiring artists such as Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, Frankenthaler’s method of painting and the subtle washes of color that became her signature process effectively initiated the Color Field painting in the late 1950s and 1960s.
In addition to painting, Frankenthaler produced welded steel sculptures, experimented with ceramics, and designed sets and costumes. She also created prints throughout her career and explored a number of techniques to translate her lyrical painting style into the medium of printmaking. In 1961, she began creating lithographs at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) where she made more than 25 lithographs, etchings, and woodcuts. For her later graphic work, she also frequently worked at Tyler Graphics. Essence Mulberry (1977), her first print at Tyler Graphics pushed the boundaries of the traditionally hard-edge style of woodcuts to achieve painterly washes of color. Noteworthy print portfolios to which Frankenthaler contributed include Valentine for Mr. Wonderful (1995) and Tales of Genji (1998). Another important graphic work of Frankenthaler’s is This is not a book (1997), a book which she created after failing to find an appropriate text to accompany her artwork. This wordless book explores the visual possibilities of the sequential format of a bound book.
Frankenthaler’s work has been recognized by many awards including First Prize for Painting at the first Paris Biennial (1959), New York City Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture (1986), and Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement, College Art Association (1994). Her work has been the subject of retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1969) and the Museum of Modern Art (1989) among many others.
Books by Helen Frankenthaler available from Boreas Fine Art:
[ Frankenthaler, Helen ] Williams, William Carlos. Valentine for Mr. Wonderful. New York: Tyler Graphics. 1995.
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