Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011, New York) is regarded as one of the most prominent American artists of the modern and contemporary era and major painter of postwar Abstract Expressionism. In the 1950s, Frankenthaler was inspired by New York-based artists, especially by the work of Jackson Pollock. She began to experiment with pouring paint directly onto canvas; however, unlike Pollock, Frankenthaler used thinned paint on untreated canvases, creating the effect of a large watercolor. This revolutionary technique—termed “soak-stain”—launched the second generation of the Color Field school of painting. Even though her poured works appear nonrepresentational, they are often based on real or imaginary landscapes. In addition to her studio practice, the artist taught at New York University, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.


Frankenthaler studied art at the Dalton School, Bennington College and the Art Students League of New York. Her work has been exhibited internationally and honored with important retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2001, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Today, her work is on view at prestigious museums across the globe including the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Guggenheim (New York) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), among others.


Related Works

  • Frankenthaler was married to Robert Motherwell, another Abstract Expressionist who was profoundly influenced by ink wash painting and other East Asian calligraphy techniques. View his work.
  • Fellow Abstract Expressionist Sam Francis has a similarly energetic (although slightly less ethereal and atmospheric) style. View his work.