National Museum of Women in the Arts
Helen Frankenthaler
December 12 1928 - present
Photograph of Helen Frankenthaler, 1964, by Alexander Lieberman. 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm). Miscellaneous photograph collection. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Place of Birth:
New York
Phonetic Spelling:
HEHL-ehn FRAYNK-ehn-TAH-lerr
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works, Drawings and prints, Painting, Sculpture, Textiles and clothing
Artistic Role(s):
Ceramicist, Costume Designer, Illustrator, Lithographer, Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor, Watercolorist, Welder, Set Designer
Abstract Expressionism , Other
Artist's Statement:
The painter Helen Frankenthaler is a second-generation abstract expressionist widely considered one of America’s most respected living female artists. A New York native, Frankenthaler graduated from the Dalton School, where she studied with the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo. After earning her BA degree from Bennington College in Vermont, she moved back to New York. In 1950, Frankenthaler began the experiments that culminated in her stain paintings: large scale abstractions with thin washes of pigment, reminiscent of watercolors. This technique inspired the Color Field painters and earned impressive reviews for Frankenthaler from 1953 on.

For many years Frankenthaler executed stained canvases that seem nonrepresentational, but which are actually based on real or imaginary landscapes. During the summers, she worked in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and in the mid-1970s she bought a second home and studio in Connecticut. In addition to her two dimensional work, Frankenthaler produced welded steel sculptures; she has also explored ceramics, prints, and illustrated books, and in 1985, she designed sets and costumes for a production by England’s Royal Ballet. She has taught at New York University, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and has had numerous one-woman exhibitions of her work, including important retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969 and The Museum of Modern Art in 1989. Frankenthaler has won many awards and has been the subject of a documentary film.

Other Occupation(s):
Instructor, Professor
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
The Art Students League of New York, New York, NY, USA (1958-1971) Columbia University, New York, NY, USA (1949) Bennington College, Bennington, VT, USA (1946-1949) Dalton School, New York, NY, USA (1941-1945)
Related Visual Artists:
wife of Robert Motherwell friend of Lee Krasner friend of Morris Lewis friend of Willem de Kooning friend of Elaine de Kooning friend of Kenneth Noland student of Paul Feeley student of Wallace Harrison student of Hans Hofmann student of Horace Mann student of Rufino Tamayo student of Vaclav Vytlacil influenced Lynda Benglis
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award, College Art Association, New York, NY, USA (1994) Mayor's Award of Honor for Arts and Culture, City of New York, New York, NY, USA (1986) Garrett Award, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1972)
Earliest exhibition:
Ninth Street Show, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1951)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Presswork: The Art of Women Printmakers
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Book as Art VIII
Artist retrospective(s):
Helen Frankenthaler: A Painting Retrospective, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA (1989) Helen Frankenthaler, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (1969) Helen Frankenthaler: Paintings, The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, USA (1960)