helen frankenthaler in her new york studio at 83rd street and third avenue, 1964, with one of her interior landscapes behind her on the wall (work in the collection of san francisco museum of modern art) image by alexander liberman. alexander liberman photography archive, research library, the getty research institute, los angeles, california. (2000.R.19) image © j. paul getty trust via art art art artist

helen frankenthaler, recognized as one of the most influential american artists of the 20th century, has died on december 27 at the age of 83, in her home in darien, connecticut, USA, following a lengthy period of illness.

frankenthaler, born in 1928 in new york city, studied at the dalton school with mexican abstract painter rufino tamayo in new york city and attended university at bennington college in vermont where she studied with artist paul feeley, graduating in 1949. the first monumental exhibition of her career was in 1952 with the display of ‘mountains and sea’, a 7 x 10ft oil painting that seemed as if it were created as a watercolor piece. ‘mountains and sea’ introduced the use of turpentine-diluted oil-paint upon raw canvas, a technique known as ‘staining’, which is attributed to the color field school of painting of which frankenthaler was a founder.

as an abstract expressionist painter, frankenthaler was a major contributor to american post-war painting as well as one of the first artists to practice the color field school of painting. her large-scale canvases and easel-free technique were formed by gesture and dance, similar to the artistic process employed by abstract expressionist painter jackson pollack. frankenthaler’s work emphasized the flat surface, interrogating the nature of the viewer and his relationship to the artist, and focusing upon color rather than illusory depth in her body of work. 

read more in the obituary published by the new york times.

helen frankenthaler 1928 2011 ‘mountains and sea’, 1952 oil and charcoal on canvas 86 5/8 x 117 1/4 in. (220 x 297.8 cm) on extended loan to the national gallery of art, washington, d.c. image via about

helen frankenthaler 1928 2011 ‘desert pass’, 1976 acrylic on canvas 39 x 54 in (99.1 x 137.2 cm) smithsonian american art museum, bequest of edith s. and arthur j. levin 2005.5.32 image courtesy smithsonian american art museum photostream

helen frankenthaler 1928 2011 ‘nepenthe’, 1972 kathan brown (printer) color aquatint on paper plate 15 5/8 x 24 1/4 in. (39.8 x 61.7 cm) smithsonian american art museum purchase 1972.75 image courtesy smithsonian american art museum via my museum syndicate

helen frankenthaler 1928 2011 ‘may 26, backwards’, 1961 universal limited art editions (publisher) by bob blackburn (printer) color lithograph on paper sheet 31 1/8 x 22 1/2 in. (79 x 57.1 cm) smithsonian american art museum purchase 1967.32 image courtesy smithsonian american art museum via my museum syndicate