Prominent color field painter Helen Frankenthaler was a leading force behind the visually engaging and dynamic American painting movement known as abstract expressionism. Frankenthaler’s new way of making art sets her apart from fellow abstract expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
Frankenthaler’s unorthodox technique in thinning oil paint with turpentine and then applying it to an unprepared canvas achieves an effect similar to light and airy watercolors. By diluting the oil paint and pouring the mixture directly from a coffee can onto the surface of the canvas, Frankenthaler was able to create a distinctive and unique oil on canvas in contrast to the dense and often dark works of Pollock and Mark Rothko.
Frankenthaler’s breakthrough painting entitled “Mountain and Sea” (1952) was inspired by the landscapes she encountered on her travels to Nova Scotia. The oil and charcoal on canvas is lyrical in its depiction of the sky, forest and water. The pale and mellow blues and greens defined lightly by sporadic charcoal lines are active, yet calming in appearance.
Bright pools of color that make up large, yet inviting canvases define the paintings and legacy Frankenthaler left behind when she passed away Dec. 27.