Helen Frankenthaler was an American painter and printmaker best known for her development of a signature stained painting technique. Her practice served as a bridge between the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s to the Color Field painters of the 1960s, and influenced a generation of New York painters. "One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it," she once said of her practice. "It looks as if it were born in a minute." Her seminal work Mountains and Sea (1952), a pastel blend of oil paint and charcoal on an unprimed canvas, prompted Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland to create their own practices of staining canvas.
Born on December 12, 1928 in New York, NY, she studied with Rufino Tamayo at the Dalton School and Paul Feeley at Bennington College. Frankenthaler attracted the attention of influential art critic Clement Greenberg in the 1950s, and over time her work was met with international attention. The Jewish Museum in New York hosted her first retrospective exhibition in 1960, and she continued to experiment with painting, printmaking, and sculpture until her death on December 27, 2011 in Darien, CT at the age of 83.
Frankenthaler’s distinguished and prolific career has been the subject of numerous monographic museum exhibitions, including—in addition to the 1960 Jewish Museum show—major retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and European tour (1969); The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and tour (1985, works on paper); the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and tour, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1989); the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and tour (1993, prints); the Naples Museum of Art, Florida, and tour, including the Yale University Art Gallery (2002, woodcuts); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, traveled to the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (2003, works on paper).
Recent major exhibitions have included Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959 (Gagosian Gallery, NY, 2013); Making Painting: Helen Frankenthaler and JMW Turner (Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK, 2014); Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color: Paintings 1962–1963 (Gagosian Gallery, NY, 2014); Giving Up One’s Mark: Helen Frankenthaler in the 1960s and 1970s (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, in cooperation with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, 2014–2015); Pretty Raw: After and Around Helen Frankenthaler (Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, 2015); and Line into Color, Color into Line: Helen Frankenthaler, Paintings, 1962–1987 (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, 2016).