Helen Frankenthaler has been one of my favorite artists since my sophomore year in college. Twice I had written about her for term papers and even though my own personal work is not abstract, I am still very fond of her poetic aesthetic, specifically her, in my opinion, more intimate works on paper.
Frankenthaler was born and raised in Manhattan and studied at Dalton School, Bennington College and the Art Students league of New York. She met Clement Greenburg in 1950 and through him became aquainted with artists like Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell – whom she married in 1958 – 71.
Her work “Mountains and Sea”- 1952, propelled her into the art scene and influenced artists like Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis to adopt her Pollock inspired Soak-Stain technique. Frankenthaler would thin oil paints with an abundant of turpentine to stain unprimed canvases. This technique would give her color application a fluid and painterly appeal but also create a halo affect around the paint applications.
In the early 1960’s Frankenthaler expanded her artistic talents to include printmaking at the insistence of Tanya Grossman, co founder of United Limited Art Editions (ULAE). Despite her initial reluctance, Frankenthaler became rather fond of the medium and its possibilities and had some critical success with her prints.
Last month I was visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and came across ‘Mountains and Sea’. It was gorgeous to view in person and I can easily understand how so many of her contemporaries were inspired and influenced by it. I highly recommend checking it out and to simply stand before it for several moments.