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Modern Masters Artist Profile: Helen Frankenthaler

Note: Helen Frankenthaler is one of the artists featured in Women of Abstract Expressionism, which will be on view at the Denver Art Museum June 12-September 25, 2016. This blog was originally published for the Modern Masters exhibition.

American artist Helen Frankenthaler recalled her years in the New York art scene of the 1940s and 50s: “I was influenced by both Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and eventually felt there were more possibilities for me out of the Pollock vocabulary.” Frankenthaler’s main influence from Pollock came from the fact that she felt she could build upon his style and thus depart from it.

Frankenthaler began her departure from Pollock by thinning her oil paint with turpentine and then pouring it directly on to the bare canvas. This technique allowed it to soak into the canvas and fuse with the surface. The technique did not allow Frankenthaler much control over the outcome of her paintings, leading her to call the areas where the colors met “well-ordered collisions.” This development of the soak-stain technique solidified her place in the New York art world, leading fellow artist Morris Louis to proclaim that Frankenthaler was, “the bridge between Pollock and what’s possible.”

Update: Some of the images referred to in this blog post have been removed following the close of Modern Masters at the Denver Art Museum. Please visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Collection search page to find the related artworks. This appeared on this post while the exhibition was open:

Helen Frankenthaler, Tutti-Fruitti, 1966. Acrylic on canvas; 116 3/4 x 69 inches. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr. Photograph by Tom Loonan. © 2014 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Holly Westwood was an intern in the education department at the Denver Art Museum in 2013.

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