Tuesday, November 8, 2016

1928-2011: Helen Frankenthaler, American

Photo from Internet
Helen Frankenthaler was a prominent Abstract Expressionist in the second generation of artists to work in that movement. She exhibited her paintings throughout the second half of the 20th century.

Helen was a pioneer of Color Field painting. Where the first generation Expressionists focussed on the expressive power of the brushstroke, the second generation was interested primarily in broad fields of color. She gained fame with her invention of the color-stain technique in which she applied thin washes of paint to unprimed canvas. Jackson Pollock had been the first to pour paint directly on raw canvas laid on the floor, but he had used enamel that rested on the canvas like skin. Helen poured paint thinned with turpentine over the canvas in watery washes that soaked right into the fabric's weave, staining it.

Helen's staining method emphasized the flat surface over illusory depth, and it called attention to the very nature of paint on canvas. It also brought a new, open airiness to the painted surface. Her paintings were almost always visibly improvised from start to finish. Her imagery reflected her impressions of landscape, her meditations on personal experience, and the pleasures of dealing with paint.

Background: Daughter of a judge on the New York State Supreme court, Helen was brought up in the privileged background of a cultured and progressive family.

Training: During high school she studied with a famous Mexican painter, Rufino Tamayo. She earned a B.A. from Bennington College Vermont.

Private life: After college, Helen set up a studio in Manhattan and began to paint full time.

When she was 22, in 1950, she met Clement Greenberg one of the foremost art critics of the time. They had a 5-year relationship. He introduced her to all the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists and mentored her career. They traveled extensively in Europe to study the art of the Old Masters.

In 1958, when she was 30, Helen married Robert Motherwell, one of the leaders of the first generation of Ab Ex painters, along with Pollock and de Kooning. Like her, he came from a wealthy family, and they spent several months honeymooning in Spain and France. They then purchased a house in the fashionable district of Manhattan and were known for lavish entertaining. They divorced in 1971.

Here's a sample of Motherwell's work:

Robert Motherwell
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110, 1971
Guggenheim / Internet

In 1994, when she was 66, Helen married an investment banker who played a role in the Ford administration.

Our photos of Helen's art:

21st Street Studio, 1950
Portland / Jan's photo, 2017

Summer Scene Provincetown, 1950
Portland / Jan's photo, 2017

Mountains and Sea, 1952
National Gallery / Jan's photo

Round Trip, 1957
Albright-Knox / Jan's photo

Jacob’s Ladder, 1957
MOMA / Jan's photo

Winter Hunt, 1958
LACMA / Jan's photo / 2017

Sea Picture with Black, 1959
Wadsworth Atheneum / Jan's photo

Approach, 1962
Anderson Collection / Jan's photo

Island Weather II, 1963
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2013

Wizard, 1963
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2014

Painting with Frame, 1964
Seattle / Jan's photo, 2017

Blue Fall, 1966
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2013
Draft, 1969
St. Louis / Jan's photo

Monoscape, 1969
Joslyn / Jan's photo

Renaissance, 1971
LACMA / Jan's photo, 2017

Venus Revealed, 1973
Seattle / Jan's photo, 2017

Spaced Out Orbit, 1973
Portland / Jan's photo, 2017

Just Before, 1974
Oil on Canvas
Smith College
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2006

Green Sway, 1975
Santa Barbara / Jan's photo, 2017

Midnight Shore, 2002
Kemper / Jan's photo

Internet Examples:

Nature Abhors a Vacuum, 1973
National Gallery / Internet

Gray Fireworks, 1982