Helen Frankenthaler’s Yellow Jack.


“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.