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Helen Frankenthaler Prints

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Helen Frankenthaler is a prominent name from the school of second generation of abstract expressionists.

Helen Frankenthaler was born in 1928 in New York. She did her schooling from Dalton School and was friends with Rufino Tamayo, the famous Mexican painter. She pursued her higher studies from the Bennington College of Vermont. Later she returned to New York and worked towards establishing herself among the avant-garde of New York. Frankenthaler’s meeting with Clement Greenberg, the renowned art critic in the year 1950 proved to be a major turning point in the former’s life. Greenberg acquainted Frankenthaler to a number of eminent personalities from the art world of New York including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. She shared a common interest with them - transforming nature’s elements into abstract color and shapes.

In the 1950s, Frankenthaler moved away from the abstract expressionist style of painting and developed her own style with a novel technique. The technique involved pouring of thinned pigment onto the unprimed canvas. This style of painting asserted the dominance of color through fusion of color and ground. It also introduced a unique style of art which later came to be known as “color field painting”.

One of her major works “Mountains and Sea” (created in 1952) was created using the color field technique. With this painting came a new turn in her artistic career, when she started using this “stain technique” for majority of her works. She would pour several layers of paint which was thinned using turpentine over unprimed canvasses which in turn would create effects redolent of watercolor.

With the invention of this new technique, lots of artists especially those from Washington color school opted for the soak-staining technique, replacing the action painting technique comprising of thick paint and gestural strokes. The pouring technique of Frankenthaler became widely famous because it could create abstract shapes or fields of color, simplify the diverse scenes of nature and achieve a “dynamic lyricism” providing picture space.

Her stained paintings had their foundation on imaginary or real landscapes and they epitomized her art in the true sense. She married Robert Motherwell (a well-known American painter) in the year 1958 but got divorced later.

Throughout the decades of 1960s and 1970s Frankenthaler continued exploring and experimenting usage of abstract forms of large sizes and rich colors in her paintings. However, after 1970s, one can notice a change in Frankenthaler’s style of painting; her canvasses were flooded with colors rather than staining the colors. Thus she switched over to acrylic paint from oil paint.

Frankenthaler did not confine herself within the boundary of experimentation with colors alone. She explored with different materials, she produced woodcuts, ceramic works, steel sculptures, illustrated books and color prints. Further, she taught in several prestigious universities including Harvard, New York, Yale and Princeton Universities. She also got several opportunities for displaying her work in one-person exhibitions which included names like the Museum of Modern Art, New York (in the year 1989) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (in the year 1969). Frankenthaler died on 27th December 2011 at Darien in Connecticut.

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