Helen Frankenthaler


Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) is regarded as one of the major painters of postwar American Abstract Expressionism. Frankenthaler first studied art at the Dalton School in New York, and then at Bennington College in Vermont.


In the 1950s, Frankenthaler was inspired by American Abstract Expressionism, especially by the work of Jackson Pollock. She began to experiment with pouring paint directly onto canvas but unlike Pollock, Frankenthaler used thinned paint on untreated canvases, creating the effect of a large watercolor; this revolutionary technique 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.


Frankenthaler participated in the documenta II in Kassel and has held numerous international exhibitions, including important retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Frankenthaler has taught at New York University, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and was married to American painter Robert Motherwell until 1971. She died in 2011 after a long disease.


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.