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Helen Frankenthaler

American, 1928-2011

Prolific and pioneering painter Helen Frankenthaler said it was “a combination of impatience, laziness and innovation” that drove her to thin her paints with turpentine so that they would seep into the fabric of an unprimed canvas. Her breakthrough in the early 1950s led the way for a spellbinding new style of painting that would come to be known as Color Field.

Although Color Field is often considered a strain of Abstract Expressionism, Frankenthaler’s work differed from the gestural “Action Painting” that typified the paintings of artists like Willem de Kooning and Lee Krasner. Her vast and immersive expanses of color created at a fearless scale captivated art critics and greatly influenced her peers including Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland.

Frankenthaler knew from an early age that she wanted to be a painter. The youngest daughter of a New York State Supreme Court justice, she grew up on Manhattan’s Park Avenue and as a child delighted in the little ways color and form revealed themselves, whether dribbling red nail polish in a sink full of water or drawing her steps from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to her family’s apartment. As a student at Bennington College, her rare vision was enriched by the mentorship of painter Paul Feeley, who gave her lessons in Cubism. After dabbling in art history at Columbia University, she rented a studio downtown and befriended rising New York art stars like Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell, whom she later married.

Characterized by “direct, exuberant gestures,” the Abstract Expressionist technique was all about gusto, and Frankenthaler had it in spades. One of the few women of this era to garner widespread critical acclaim, Frankenthaler had a significant impact on the mid-20th-century art world. She exhibited in the high-profile 1951 Ninth Street Show and, in 1957, she appeared in a Life magazine spread on women artists photographed by Gordon Parks. In 1960, the Jewish Museum held her first major museum show, a retrospective of her 1950s work. A 1969 solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art further introduced Frankenthaler to the broader art world.

While Frankenthaler remains best known for bold, expressive “soak-stain” paintings such as Mountains and Sea (1952), she worked across diverse media for decades, with forays into woodcutting, drawing and printmaking that also pushed boundaries. She also taught at Harvard, Yale and Princeton, fostering generations of artists. She died in 2011.

Find original Helen Frankenthaler art on 1stDibs.

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Creator: Helen Frankenthaler
Helen Frankenthaler Color Etching
By Helen Frankenthaler
Located in West Palm Beach, FL
Ganymede, 1978 Etching with aquatint 9/49 Pencil signed and dated by the artist.       
Category

1970s North American Vintage Helen Frankenthaler

Materials

Paper

Serigraph by Helen Frankenthaler Titled "Aerie", 2009
By Helen Frankenthaler
Located in Stamford, CT
"Aerie" by Helen Frankenthaler, Signed and with edition number 99/128. Sheet size is 29.5 x 38.75 inches, framed in a 12 karat white gold frame using acid free materials with UV plex...
Category

21st Century and Contemporary American Mid-Century Modern Helen Frankenthaler

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Helen Frankenthaler Connected by Joy 1969-73 Signed Aquatint & Etching 3/27 Fram
By Helen Frankenthaler
Located in Keego Harbor, MI
A quintessentially modern four-color aquatint & etching titled Connect by Joy 1969-73 by abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler. Hand signed and dated on the bottom right...
Category

1970s Vintage Helen Frankenthaler

Materials

Paper

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Helen Frankenthaler furniture for sale on 1stDibs

Helen Frankenthaler's furniture is available for sale on 1stDibs. These unique items are often made from Paper, and are designed with extraordinary care. In our Helen Frankenthaler collection, there are many options to choose from, although gray editions of this piece are particularly popular. In-stock we have 1 vintage editions of these items, while there is also 0 modern edition to choose from. Many of the original furniture by Helen Frankenthaler were created in North America during the 1970s in the Mid-Century Modern style. If you’re looking for additional options, many customers also consider furniture by Frank Stella, Robert Mangold and Ed Ruscha. Prices for Helen Frankenthaler furniture can vary depending on size, time period and other attributes. Price for these items starts at $17,500 and tops out at $21,500, while pieces like these can sell for $19,500 on average.
Questions About Helen Frankenthaler
  • 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022
    Helen Frankenthaler was known for her Abstract-expressionist art. She became well known for her 1952 painting Mountains and Sea. It was the first time she employed the soak-stain painting technique that would become a hallmark of her later work. You'll find a variety of Helen Frankenthaler art on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022
    Helen Frankenthaler mostly did paintings. The American artist's work reflects the characteristics of Abstract Expressionism. Mountains and Sea, Snow Pines, Aerie and Grey Fireworks are among her most famous paintings. You can find a range of Helen Frankenthaler art on 1stDibs.
  • 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022
    Helen Frankenthaler is an American abstract expressionist painter that was known for inventing a technique referred to as soak-stain. Soak staining is a process using thinned paint and raw canvas, similar to painting fabric. Shop a range of Helen Frankenthaler work on 1stDibs.

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