Contemporary abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler worked spanned for more than six decades. Born in New York City to a highly respected New York Supreme Court Judge and his wife whom had recently emigrated from Germany, Frankenthaler had a prestigious and cultured upbringing in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She studied art at both the Dalton School, a private University in Manhattan and at Bennington College in Vermont.
Frankenthaler’s launched her first successful exhibition at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York in 1951. In 1952 her oil and charcoal piece entitled ‘Mountains and Sea’ won her acclaim and is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She married fellow abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell in 1958 and they became very well known for their lavish lifestyle and entertaining.
By the 1960’s, Helen Frankenthaler’s abstract paintings took on a modern flat approach known as Color Field painting. As she was finding her style she was she was influenced by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock’s paintings. Clement Greenberg, a noted art critic, also had great influence. They were friends and Greenberg helped her navigate the New York art scene.
Helen Frankenthaler received numerous awards throughout her career. She received First Prize for her Painting at the first Paris Biennial in 1959, the New York City Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture in 1986, the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement from the College Art Association in 1994, and the National Medal of Arts in 2001. Frankenthaler also served on the National Council on the Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1985 to 1992 and she was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member in 1990 and became a full Academician in 1994. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 83 at her home in Connecticut. Helen Frankenthaler’s work is included in museum collections all over the world.