Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler was a major figure in the development of color-field abstraction and a leading voice in the postwar print renaissance in the United States. Born on December 12, 1928, in New York City, she received her bachelor’s degree from Bennington College in 1949. Frankenthaler is best known for her invention of the soak-stain technique, which involved pouring thinned paint directly onto unprimed canvases that she laid on her studio floor, but she experimented with a range of other media—including ceramics, sculpture, and tapestry—over the course of her career. In 1965 and 1999, she contributed original works to the Paris Review print series.


Helen Frankenthaler and James Schuyler: A Correspondence

In bohemian postwar Manhattan, poets (Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch) naturally gravitated to painters (Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Larry Rivers) whose work they appreciated on its own terms. Certain poets were lauded for their perceptive, unbiased eye; some painters instinctively sensed a resonant poem. Painter Helen Frankenthaler and poet James Schuyler had such a mutual appreciation. Their run-in during the 1954 Venice Biennale was memorable enough to open Schuyler’s poem “Torcello” (they must have met previously to have recognized each other, though it is unclear when). In any case, they kept circling: Schuyler reviewed Frankenthaler’s shows at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1957 and at the André Emmerich Gallery in 1960.