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.”
I was dumbstruck when I first saw Paul Klee’s painting Young Moe (1938) up in the Klee Room. How had I never before recognized the apparent influence of this Klee in Kenneth Noland’s In the Garden (1952)?
As a Museum Assistant, I spend a lot of time looking at the art in various galleries, and Young Moe and In the Garden have both been consistently on display during my time at the Phillips. It seems the echos of Klee in Noland’s work are far from accidental–as a young artist in Washington, D.C., Noland spent a lot of time at The Phillips Collection and in the original Klee Room itself.
To make way for the upcoming Joseph Marioni installation, the Noland piece is currently taking a break from the museum walls. You can still find Young Moe in the Klee Room through the end of the year.
Have you noticed resonances between other works at the Phillips? Please post your observations as a comment here.
Piper Grosswendt, Museum Assistant/Marketing Intern