Great American artist and major influence for a whole generation of New York painters, Helen Frankenthaler bridges the gap between the abstract expressionism of the 50's and the "color field painting" movement of the 60's that she initiated.
After graduate studies at Bennington College in Vermont, Frankenthaler made her debut in New York. There she frequented the creative avant-garde in Manhattan, David Smith, Lee Krasner, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock, who inspired and fascinated her. Like him, she uses large formats and works on a canvas on the floor, but soon she finds her own style and even invents her own technique based on "absorbed color spots".
On large horizontal canvases, she deploys large puddles of colors diluted with turpentine, the fluidity and lightness of the flat tints (sometimes reminiscent of watercolor), combined with a soft palette, give her works a sensation of continuous movement. Although completely abstract, his canvases evoke landscapes, and more specifically panoramas whose titles explicitly refer to nature. One thinks of the artist's mythical work Mountains and Sea (1952) inspired by the cliffs of Nova Scotia, or later Ocean Drive West (1974), created in a seaside house that the artist rented to put on canvas the movements of the ocean and the flow of the tides.
Ocean Drive West #1, 1974
Helen Frankenthaler's work, sometimes judged "too soft" or "too feminine" by some contemporaries and critics, appears in retrospect as proof that one can paint abstract without being cold and clinical. This softness and femininity that we perceive in the artist's paintings are also synonymous with harmony, warmth, balance. These feelings are above all caused by a perfect mastery of tones, colors and their associations. Vitaminized, expressive, alive, Helen Frankenthaler's paintings do good. Quite simply.