Frankenthaler, Helen

Helen Frankenthaler was born in New York in 1928. She studied at a number of art schools and was taught at one stage by Hans Hofmann. By 1950 she had met many of the main figures of Abstract Expressionism. In 1958 she married the painter Robert Motherwell.

Frankenthaler became the first American painter after Jackson Pollock to see the implications of the color staining of raw canvas to create an integration of color and ground in which foreground and background cease to exist. This highly intuitive process, known as “stain painting,” became the hallmark of her style and enabled her to create color-filled canvases that seemed to float on air.

In 1960 Frankenthaler made her first prints. Since then, she has worked with a variety of printmaking techniques in addition to painting, using each of these media to explore pictorial space through the interaction of color and line on a particular surface. One of her most successful prints is “Essence Mulberry” (1977) inspired by an exhibit of medieval prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Helen Frankenthaler’s art is held in the collection of every major museum of modern art. The stain technique she made famous is still an integral part of her work and it can be seen running through her entire oeuvre. Although the paintings are abstract, a strong suggestion of landscape is often apparent, and they have been praised for their lyrical qualities.