Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler


Artist Details

Birth Place
New York City
Death Place
Darien, Connecticut
Phonetic Spelling
HEHL-en FRAYNK-ehn-TAH-lerr
Decorative and utilitarian works; Drawings and prints; Painting; Sculpture; Textiles and clothing
Abstract Expressionism
Places of Residence
New York City
The Art Students League of New York, 1958–71; Columbia University, New York City, 1949; Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, 1946–49; Dalton School, New York City, 1941–45
Retrospective Exhibitions

Helen Frankenthaler: A Painting Retrospective, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1989; Helen Frankenthaler, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, 1969; Helen Frankenthaler: Paintings, The Jewish Museum, New York City, 1960

NMWA Exhibitions

Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997, 1997–98
Book as Art VIII, 1996
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy, 1994
Presswork: The Art of Women Printmakers, 1991
Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990

About the Artist

Helen Frankenthaler, a second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter, pioneered a stain technique that influenced Color Field painters like Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland.

A New York City native, Frankenthaler began her art studies at the Dalton School under Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo. She earned her B.A. from Bennington College in Vermont and moved back to New York, where she met Abstract Expressionist artists Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell (to whom she was briefly married).

In 1950, Frankenthaler began the experiments that culminated in her stain paintings: large scale abstractions with thin washes of pigment that soak into the canvas, reminiscent of watercolors. Her novel technique was championed by prominent art critic Clement Greenberg.

Frankenthaler also created welded steel sculptures, ceramics, prints, illustrated books, and costume and set design. She taught at New York University, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and had numerous solo exhibitions, including retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Art Association in 1994, and the New York Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture in 1986. 

National Museum of Women in the Arts