Helen Frankenthaler, 1928-2011

Helen Frankenthaler, Canyon, 1965. Acrylic on canvas, 44 x 52 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Dreier Fund for Acquisitions and funds given by Gifford Phillips, 2001.

Abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler has died in Connecticut at the age of 83. Her painting, Canyon, 1965, is a favorite here at the Phillips and often on display. The canvas is stained by rich pools of poured paint, a method that would be adopted by other fellow members of the abstract expressionist movement. During a powerfully inspirational visit to Frankenthaler’s New York studio in April of 1953, Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland saw her painting Mountains and Sea (1952) and were deeply moved by her inventive use of color and paint, bringing back techniques that would serve as the foundation of the Washington Color School painters. As quoted in Gerald Nordland’s essay, “Washington Color Painters: the first generation,” Louis said, “[Frankenthaler] showed us a way to think about and use color . . . She was a bridge between [Jackson] Pollock and what was possible.”

In Honor of Women’s Equality Day

Berthe Morisot, Two Girls, c. 1894. Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 1/4 inches. Acquired 1925. Paintings, 1390, French.

We’re celebrating Women’s Equality Day, so proclaimed because women in the U.S. were given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, with a look at some of our favorite women artists in the Phillips’s collection. You’ll see the above work by Berthe Morisot on display in the galleries, along with Helen Frankenthaler‘s Runningscape, several works by Georgia O’Keeffe, and pieces by Dorothy Dehner. Staff favorites include Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, Jackie FerraraLoren MacIver, Irene Rice Pereira, Alma Thomas, and of course, Marjorie Phillips. Who are some of your favorite women artists?