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In this edition of our #BerggruenFromHome series, John discusses Helen Frankenthaler's tremendous late 60's painting, "Coalition" as an exemplification of the artist's pioneering soak-stain technique. Moreover, John speaks to how wonderful Helen Frankenthaler was, not only as an artist, but also as a person. Archival images courtesy of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Artworks © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

May 14, 2020


Helen Frankenthaler studied under Rufino Tamayo at the Dalton School in New York, and with Paul Feeley at Bennington College where she received a Bachelor of Arts in 1949. During the summer of 1950, Helen Frankenthaler studied in Provincetown, Massachusetts with Hans Hoffman. Inspired by the work of Jackson Pollock, Frankenthaler began experimenting with stain painting. She thinned her paints with turpentine and applied washes of color onto unprimed canvas. The following year she had her first solo exhibition in New York, and in 1952, she painted Mountains and Sea. The painting influenced a number of her contemporaries including Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, and Friedel Dzubas (with whom she was sharing a studio at the time). From 1958 to 1971, Helen Frankenthaler was married to the Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell. In addition to painting, printmaking, designing ballet sets and book covers, and working in sculpture, Frankenthaler has lectured extensively at various universities. She has had countless museum exhibitions internationally. Important exhibitions in the United States include her 1960 show at the Jewish Museum, New York and the Museum of Modern Art's retrospective of the artist's work in 1989. Frankenthaler passed away December 27, 2011.