33 Newbury Street Boston, MA 02116 617.266.8001
Helen Frankenthaler (December 12, 1928 – December 27, 2011) is an American post-painterly abstraction (aka Color Field) painter and printmaker. Born in New York City, her work is influenced by Jackson Pollock with whom she also was involved in the 1946-1960 Abstract Art Movement. She was the youngest daughter of a justice on the New York State Supreme Court. She studied at the Dalton School under Rufino Tamayo and also with Paul Feeley (b 1910) at Bennington College in Vermont and privately with Wallace Harrison in 1949 and Hans Hofmann in 1950. In that year she met Clement Greenberg, David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning and others. She later married fellow artist Robert Motherwell.
Like several of the exponents of Abstract Expressionism, she was concerned with the forms and energies latent in nature. In the mythology of technical breakthrough that was part of the culture of the New York School, her work Mountains and Sea has an established place. Highly influenced by Jackson Pollock, she changed her entire method of painting after watching him lay his unstretched canvases on the floor. The first Jackson Pollock show Frankenthaler saw was at the Betty Parson's Gallery in 1951. She had this to say about seeing Pollock's paintings Autumn Rhythm, Number 30, 1950 (1950), Number One Lavender Mist:(1950),"It was as if I suddenly went to a foreign country and didn't know the language, but had read enough, and had a passionate interest, and was eager to live there. I wanted to live in this land. I had to live there, and master the language."
In 1960 the term Color Field Painting was used to describe the work of Frankenthaler. This style was characterized by large areas of a more or less flat single color. The Color Field artists set them selves apart from the Abstract Expressionists because they eliminated the emotional, mythic or the religious content and the highly personal and gestural and painterly application. This suite of lithographs represents two years of studio work with the Master Printers at Tyler Graphics in upstate New York. The "Reflections" are Helen Frankenthaler at her most liquid expression. The washes of brilliant color are made first on lithographic stones or plates as general ideas. The artist can vary her effect, make changes, and build an image of various layers as the plate making progresses. Once she is satisfied with the image she can vary the printer’s ink colors endlessly until the combination suits her. Other variables include the size of margins, placement on the paper and, most especially for Frankenthaler, the color, texture, grain, and tooth of the paper. Nuances in color and delicate changes in texture have always been an important aspect of Frankenthaler’s working methods. Whether in her paintings, works on paper, or in her prints, her spontaneous efforts are held in check by her rigorous demands for beauty, clarity, and an ambiguous expressive relation to the natural world.