Madame de Pompadour, color lithograph, 44 x 30 in
“There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen,” said Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928) “Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”
For over six decades, Frankenthaler went against the rules, pioneering new techniques which launched the second generation of Color Field painting.
Her poured works were created by diluting paints to the delicate consistency of watercolors. The opaque stains spread into the fibers of the canvas, creating vivid veils of color—simultaneously bright yet soft abstract representations of real or imaginary landscapes.
“What concerns me when I work, is not whether the picture is a landscape, or whether it’s pastoral, or whether somebody will see a sunset in it,” Frankenthaler explains. “What concerns me is – did I make a beautiful picture?”
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“A really good picture looks as if it has happened at once,” said Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011). “It’s an immediate image.” The West Coast artist developed an entire painting technique around this idea. By thinning her oils with turpentine or water and splashing them across canvases, she created abstract images that possessed the immediacy she was after. Famed art critic Clement Greenberg heralded her “soak-stain” compositions as the next step in abstract expressionism’s evolution, after Jackson Pollock’s breakthrough drip paintings rocked the world.
“When Greenberg brought the abstract painters Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis to Frankenthaler’s studio in 1953, they seized upon both her technique and the broad, flat expanses of color she created,” writes Jon Mann for Artsy. “Greenberg was quick to… highlight a second impulse and aesthetic in Abstract Expressionism—Color Field Painting—of which Frankenthaler would be a leading exponent for over a decade.” Frankenthaler’s lithograph Reflections X exemplifies the flowing, lyrical nature of her best paintings. It’s from her Reflections series, 12 lithographs that she made with Tyler Graphics in 1995. Scroll down to see the new piece, and two other prints from the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection.
14.75 x 11.75 in.
30 x 38 in
16.75 x 21 in
Click here to learn more about artwork by Helen Frankenthaler in the Zane Bennett Contemporary Collection.
“My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates. They’re not nature per se, but a feeling,” said Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011). A second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter, Frankenthaler became active in the New York School of the 1950s, initially influenced by artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky. She gained prominence with her invention of the color-stain technique—applying thin washes of paint to unprimed canvas—in her iconic Mountains and Sea (1952).
Frankenthaler’s works balance abstraction with elements of landscape and figuration, as seen in her 1987 lithograph Yellow Jack. The work transports the viewer to a calm seashore—or perhaps a cool desert—after dusk, with the rising moon’s bright yellow light bleeding from the composition’s edges. “This complicated relationship to landscape presents a constant tension in her art,” notes the Clark Art Institute in the exhibition materials for their current show, As In Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings. “[Her works] are primarily abstract, yet reveal recognizable elements from the landscape that function, paradoxically, to reinforce their abstraction: as in nature, but not as in nature.”
Image: Helen Frankenthaler, Yellow Jack, 1987, lithograph, 30 x 36 in.