Helen Frankenthaler: Works On Paper

1545 words - 6 pages

Helen Frankenthaler was an American born painter, sculptor and printmaker. Frankenthaler, with two fellow artists, led the way into the development of Color Field painting, a component of Abstract Expressionism. Frankenthaler is recognized as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century as a result of her contribution of great talent and the ability to deliver beautiful and innovative works on canvas and paper. "Frankenthaler's radiant canvases are known and admired all over the world, her intimate and equally powerful works on paper are as yet unfamiliar to the majority of museum audiences (Wilkin 6)." Frankenthaler created these paper pieces with the same vivaciousness as she did with her larger works on canvas building a large collection of water colors, gouache, and mixed media pieces.
Helen Frankenthaler was born in New York City December 12, 1928 and raised on the upper eastside. Her father was a New York State Supreme Court judge and her mother was a German immigrant. Both parents offered Helen and both of her older sisters a privileged and progressive style of living. Frankenthaler was exposed to culture throughout her life and along with her sisters were encouraged to prepare themselves for professional careers. Frankenthaler attended the Dalton school, in New York City, where she studied under the Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo and later graduated from Bennington College in Vermont. Soon after graduating from Bennington College she returned to New York City where she quickly became a part of the avant-garde art world and the New York School of Painters. Frankenthaler was surrounded by notable artists such as David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and others. She also developed a relationship with a notable critic, Clement Greenberg, who championed her work. Frankenthaler made a great impact on other artists and peers and is a well documented artist of 20th century American art history. Her work played a critical role in the metamorphosis from Abstract Expressionism to the Color Field painting of the 1960's.
"Frankenthaler was 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 (Arnason 521)." Although Pollock's style of painting incorporated the raw canvas Frankenthaler's technique differed significantly. Pollock dripped, slung and spattered paint which laid on top of the canvas surface, while Frankenthaler poured diluted oil-based paint on to her canvas, thus soaking into the canvas. The resulting effects were irresistible movement and flow as the pigment and oil would leach into the canvas. The weave of the canvas would show itself through the "staining" technique. Frankenthaler said:
"For me, as a picture develops, color always comes out of drawing. I never start out only with color. I start out as a space maker on a flat thing with...

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