Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler in Life Magazine, 1956

When I went to MOMA a few years ago, there were a few artists' work that stopped me in my tracks.  Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Willem De Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler.

In case you've never heard of her, or seen any of her work, I wanted you to see a little bit.

Mountains and Sea, 1952

Frankenthaler worked much like Jackson Pollack in the way she poured paint onto the surface of the canvas.  She was, however, unique in her use of thinned paint that soaked in and became part of the canvas rather than sit on top of it.

Jacob's Ladder, 1957

Mauve District, 1966

Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown.

Savage Breeze, woodcut, 1974

Green Thought in a Green Shade, 1981

Snow Pines, 2004
34-color Ukiyo-e woodcut, printed with 16 woodblocks


Helen Frankenthaler passed away today at the age of 83.  

She was a true American gem.

- - - - - - 


I found more images of her and her work in real home settings so I thought I would add them.

This triptych is called Madame Butterfly from 2000.

Elle Decor

Helen in her NYC apartment, 1960s


  1. She is one of my favorite artists. Her work is beautiful and powerful. So is/was she.

  2. Beautiful poet with color...Love the 1956 image of her!Thanks for the intro.

    Godspeed Helen.

  3. Fascinating - beautiful. I am enamored of these bold, bright, inspiring artists, these women before their time. What lovely work. So sad for this loss...


  4. One of my favorite painters. I didn't know that she had died. Thanks for posting this lovely tribute.


  5. What a woman and what a life she must have led in those heady times of American Art. I was lucky enough to see her at MOMA quite a while ago and know what you mean about the stopped tracks. Did she work up until her death? She looked pretty feisty in the last photo.

  6. Hi Steve,
    Hope that you had a very Merry Christmas! I just love this post. The combination of the art, a lifetime and an amazing woman behind it...a very special treat.

  7. Dahhhling I had never seen her work prior to your post but in our little garden there is a painter with a very similar asthetic. If you enjoyed her art I am sure you would enjoy his: www.alexandrosantana.com

  8. Nice to learn about her and see her in action and your selection of her artwork was nice.

  9. I hadn't heard about her passing. She was extraordinary.


  10. Lovely grouping of images. Her art is quite current in terms of color and I just love the movement in it all. My daughter's name is Helen so I am especially enamoured of her art and saddened by this news.

  11. Thank you, Steve, for introducing me to Helen Frankenthaler. I will find more about her today and celebrate her life and art.
    And, as this year nears its end, I also cannot thank you enough for An Urban Cottage. It's a joy to visit. A bright moment in any day. A path to new ideas. Often prompts a chuckle. Always well spoken, edited, defined with images. A joy.
    Well done.
    Linda in Virginia

  12. Over the years I've never been one for modern art, but as I've "matured" I seem to enjoy it more and more. Maybe because my h.s. nephew is an artist who will be studying at Pratt (yay) in Sept.! I really like "Mountains and Sea" it's beautiful! Thank you for introducing me to Ms. Frankenthaler.

  13. Linda,
    Thank you so much. That's a very sweet and very much appreciated comment.

    I'm with you. I spent many years being indifferent to abstract art, perhaps even thought my cats could do it, but as I started to take art instruction, I've taken a 180 degree turn in my opinion. The more I learn about art, the less I feel I know and it makes me want to learn even more. The genius of some of this work is incredible.

    Congratulations to your nephew! OMG! That's a great school. One of my Mass Art teachers might teach there. I'll have to look and see.

  14. Thank you for sharing this, Steve. I had never heard of her, but love her work. I love modern art in an old house, so I will have to seek out her work at museums (framing the posters they sell). These would look great in your space, too. Were you thinking of something?

  15. Steve, I was just reading your comment to Mary and so agree with you. We have been thinking the same way in the last few years. This woman's art is amazing, I would love to see it in person.

  16. Great feature and such a talented artist!

  17. Hi, Steve, While I love the colors, it's not really my style. Sorry she has died, tho. Obviously her work moved many.

    Hope you are well.

  18. I hadn't heard this until I read this post. I admire her and her work very much. I loved seeing all these photos you've found of her in action. Thanks so much for posting.

  19. Thanks for this post. Beautiful work. And the photos of the artist at work are just as lovely. Makes me want to learn more about her.

  20. Steve, once again you show us that you are more than a tasteful, talented and energetic man but also a kind and generous spirit. This tribute brings back to mind the lovely remembrance you did of the former owner of the Cottage.

    Thank you for all you have shared with and taught us this year. I'm looking forward to the further adventures of Steve and the Urban Cottage next year!

  21. Steve, this is such a beautiful post. The colors in her art are incredible and I dare say she was ahead of her time. So sad for this loss.

  22. Hard to choose a favorite...so energetic and vibrant. Would love to own "Jacob's Ladder". I remember seeing her work when I was taking art classes at the University of New Mexico in the early 70's. No photos of her were made available though. What fun to see her in action and know where all that movement originated.

  23. Thanks for this post. Was just reading Roberta Smith's piece on Helen Frankenthaler in the NYT.

  24. Dear Steve, thank you for this FABULOUS posting. I love the images of the paintings juxtaposed with black and white photos to demonstrate the process and also the period.

  25. Steve,
    I love her work! When my children were quite young someone at MoMA talked to them about the difference of the canvases being laid on the floor as opposed to resting on an easel and that is how Helen and Jackson Pollack worked. They couldn't wait to get home and paint...It was summer so they dressed in bathing suits and went to work on paper on the garage floor...what a mess...but they loved it. I enjoyed all of the photos you've shown here and loved that you added more!

  26. Hadn't thought of her in ages! Love her work. Thanks so much for the reminder and letting us know of the passing of an amazing artist!

  27. Amazing, really. LOVE the "Snow Pines" most of all. Happy New Year Steve!

  28. Well, as they say - Art is subjective, it means something different to each person. I guess I'm surprised at myself that I don't really care for her work especially since I love Mid-Century Modern furniture and her paintings seem perfect in that environment... but I must say that she looked AMAZING as she created it. What a wonderful way to live a life. Spending the days creating. I'm envious. Sorry that you lost a favorite artist, you have written a lovely tribute. (I knew there would come a day that we didn't agree,:D whew, what a relief...it was starting to get scary.
    :) - Cindi

  29. What a beautiful tribute to such a great talent - just amazing artwork!!

  30. I knew not a think about Helen Frankenthaler until now. But always love to read about art and artists.

  31. A fabulous tribute. (alas, so much better than mine...) I'm so thankful to have found it. I saw your comment on From The Right Bank with the link to this post and came right over. I'm going back to study your photos more. I love seeing her at work as much as I love her work. Happy New Year and thanks again. Following you now.

  32. Just found your blog-great home, great taste. We are working on a much younger place-built in 1948 :)

    It's quite the fun adventure.

    My fave modernist is Pollack; Helen's passing is sad, but look at the gifts she left us via her artwork-it reminds me of the Picasso quote, "Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life..." Indeed.

  33. When I was a young art student of 18 she was my role model, and remained so.
    Lovely tribute and collection of images. Thank you.
    xo xo

  34. Love her gorgeous prints! I wish I had one to hang on my walls.

  35. She had such lovely work. My girls and I tried to recreate her process the best we could, it definitely doesn't compare to the original but it's nice to say we were inspired by her work! http://www.dillydaliart.com/2012/01/inspired-helen-frankenthaler.html