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Helen Frankenthaler

New York 1928 - Darien/Connecticut 2011


Helen Frankenthaler, one of the most important artists of American Abstract Expressionism, was born in New York City in 1928. Helen Frankenthaler received lessons in painting from Rufino Tamayo at the Dalton School as of 1945. In 1946 she enrolled at Bennington College in the U.S. state of Vermont. Back in New York Helen Frankenthaler studied at the Art Students League between 1947 and 1949, afterward, she also took lessons with Hans Hofmann (1950). At the same time Helen Frankenthaler took lessons in art history at Columbia University, where she attended lectures by the famous scientist Meyer Schapiro in 1949.
In the 1950s, when the post-war avant-garde was emerging in New York City and Helen Frankenthaler soon came into contact with the scene and entered into the circles of the New York School, where she met, among others, Jackson Pollock. Robert Motherwell, who was also part of the New York scene married Helen Frankenthaler in 1958, eleven years later the marriage was divorced.
In 1958 Helen Frankenthaler was also active as teacher at various universities, for instance at the acclaimed Yale University in New Haven/Connecticut.
Helen Frankenthaler's Abstract Expressionism, which was geared at works by Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, is characterized by a gentle, almost poetic harmony despite its powerful spontaneity. With very dilute colors Helen Frankenthaler painted directly onto untreated canvas and created atmospheric transitions between medium and carrier material. This innovative "Soak Stain Technique" inspired Color Field Painting and encouraged painters like Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis.
Even as a graphic artist Helen Frankenthaler provided significant contributions to art history. In particular, her color lithographs made as of 1961 are particular expressions of her achievement. Helen Frankenthaler was also occupied with sculpting and created works in terracotta or steel as of the 1970s.
The much-honored Helen Frankenthaler, whose works can be seen in important international museums, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the MUMOK Vienna, died in Darien/Connecticut in 2011.


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