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Studio Sunday: Helen Frankenthaler

A photo of Helen Frankenthaler in her art studio


Helen Frankenthaler is one of the best-known female artists of the American abstract expressionism era. Frankenthaler’s practice revolved around pouring oils and pigments directly onto a canvas, creating dilute washes that flowed over the surface to create a painting that expressed the natural movements of the media without the artist’s intervention.


Given that Frankenthaler usually created her paintings by pouring the pigments onto the canvases, most of the work took place on the floor. In the above photo, the artist is pictured standing over a large canvas that she’s working on – the scale of the works was quite huge, so the artist would have had to get quite physical with her art, walking around all the sides of the canvas, adding paint and monitoring the work’s process. I can imagine that the studio floor would have become quite messy overtime as a result – kind of like a painting in its own right!


I like the mixture of smaller sketches and expansive, un-stretched canvases visible in this image. Frankenthaler’s works relied a lot on the random behavior of diluted paints, so I assume her many sketches were sort of like practice runs for paintings, but not quite accurate sketches.


Though she is famous for her paintings, Frankenthaler continued to experiment with other media throughout her career, earning a reputation as something of an artistic pioneer. To this day, Frankenthaler is considered an important figure in the history of contemporary painting, and her works are featured in numerous museum collections. 

[image source]

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

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