In Memoriam: Helen Frankenthaler, 1928 - 2011
Posted by Lauren / to News, Artists, Art World / on January 2, 2012

Helen Frankenthaler, the poetic abstract painter whose technique of staining pigment into raw canvas helped shape an influential art movement in the mid-20th century and who became one of the most admired artists of her generation, died on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at her home in Darien, Connecticut at the age of 83.

Ms. Frankenthaler more or less stumbled on her signature stain technique, first using it in creating "Mountains and Sea" (1952). Its delicate balance of drawing and painting, fresh washes of color (predominantly blues and pinks) and breakthrough technique have made it one of her best-known works.  This seminal painting is on extended loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Known as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Ms. Frankenthaler was married during the movement's heyday to the painter Robert Motherwell, a leading first-generation member of the group. But she departed from the first generation's romantic search for the "sublime" to pursue her own path.

Although Ms. Frankenthaler rarely discussed the sources of her abstract imagery, it reflected her impressions of landscape, her meditations on personal experience and the pleasures of dealing with paint. Visually diverse, her paintings were never produced in "serial" themes like those of her Abstract Expressionist predecessors or her Color Field colleagues like Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. She looked on each of her works as a separate exploration.  Critic, Barbara Rose, wrote in 1972 of Ms. Frankenthaler's gift for "the freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind, but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions."


Grace Glueck, New York Times:

Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine:

Press Office, National Gallery of Art:




January 2, 2012
  She has always been one of my favorite artists, and an amazing, inspirational woman. She will be missed.

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