Biography

Helen Frankenthaler (American, 1928–2011) is regarded as one of the major painters of Post-War American Abstract Expressionism. Born into a Jewish family in New York City, Frankenthaler studied art, first 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 non-representational, they are often based on real or imaginary landscapes. In addition to her two-dimensional work, Frankenthaler produced welded steel sculptures and explored ceramics, prints, and illustrated books. From the mid-1980s on, she also worked as a set and costume designer for productions by England’s Royal Ballet. 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 taught at New York University, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and was married to American painter Robert Motherwell until 1971. She died in 2011 at her home in Darien, CT.