The Early Life of the Artist

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When was the artist born? Helen Frankenthaler was born in 1928. ( Where was the artist born? Helen Frankenthaler was born in New York City. ( Note any information you were able to find on the parents of the artist. Helen Frankenthaler's father was New York City Supreme Court justice.


Did the artist have any brothers or sisters?

Helen Frankenthaler had two older sisters.


What were some of the significant childhood experiences in the early life of the artist?

Frankenthaler grew up in the Manhattan area and attended private school as a child.


Note any information on the education of the artist.

Frankenthaler spent a period of time between 1945 and 1949 studying under Rufino Tamayo at the Dalton School of Art and learning cubism under Paul Feeley in Vermont at Bennington College. Between 1950 and 1951 she studied under Clement Greenberg in New York, and Hans Hofmann in Massachusetts, before being featured in her first exhibit held by Adolph Gottlieb in 1951.


What was the artist's early career like? Was it as an artist or was it in another field?

Frankenthaler's early career was as an artist. Her earlier art was based on Jackson Pollock's style of stain painting. Throughout her career she also made welded sculptures, printed books, costumes, ceramics, and art through other mediums.


(This section is worth 20 points.)

Young Adult Life and Artistic Beginnings

Did the artist marry? If so, note any information on the marriage.

Frankenthaler married Robert Motherwell. Motherwell was also an Abstract Expressionist painter. The marriage lasted from 1958-1971.


Did the artist have children? If so, note any information on the children.

No information on children was found.

What were the artist's early experiences as an artist?

Frankenthaler was first featured as an artist in Adolph Gottlieb's 1951 New Talent exhibit. In 1952 she was featured in her own exhibit.


What were the significant early works of art and what were they like?

Early works such as Mountains and Sea used stain painting on unprimed canvas or standard paper (Prebles' pg. 424). The works were composed of distorted landscapes, both real and imaginative, and nonlinear lines.


(This section is worth 20 points.)

Historical Information

What major historical events took place around the world during the time the artist was alive? Give 2 - 3 significant historical events for each continent.


1. In 1950 Soviet Union equips submarines with nuclear missiles

2. In 1952 Germany repays Israel for actions during World War II

3. In 1963 Russia sends the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space.



1. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea sparking international response.

2. In 1963 Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam is murdered.

3. In 1966 China begins Cultural Revolution.



1. In 1948 The National Party of South Africa Formed and enforced apartheid policy.

2. In 1950 the Group Acts passed enforcing racial segregation in South Africa

3. In 1954 and 1955 the Land Acts gave white minority ownership of 80% of South Africa's land.


North America

1. In 1950 birthrates increase across North America as a result of World War II

2. In 1950 television give America a national entertainment, advertisement, and informative medium.

3. In 1954 first nuclear submarine deployed by United States.


South America

1. In 1954 Guatemalan government overthrown by United States.

2. In 1967 attempted Bolivian uprising resulting in death of Ernesto Guevara.

3. Between 1932-1961 women gain political rights in Latin American Countries.


(This section is worth 20 points.)

Historical Information on the Style

What style did the artist work in? (This is noted for you at the beginning of this assignment).

Frankenthaler worked in the Abstract Expressionism style.

(Prebles' 424)

Describe the significant characteristics of this style.

Abstract Expressionism is a highly adapted style. It varies from artist to artist. Abstract Expressionist painters generally use unprimed canvas or paper for the medium. They apply paint nontraditional ways compared to standard brushstrokes (dripping, staining, and splattering was common). Cubism was widely incorporated in paintings, sculptures, and other mediums. Most of Abstract Expressionism was based on nature, while some was based on social issues. (Prebles' 422-428)

Name some of the other artists who worked in this style.

Other Abstract Expressionists include Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Norman Lewis, and Alberto Burri. (Prebles' 422-427)

Where and when did this style occur?

Abstract Expressionism was very popular across Europe and North America. It began in the 1930s, after the end of World War II. It gained popularity in the late 1940s and was practiced popularly up to the mid-1960s. (Prebles' 422-424)

(This section is worth 15 points.)

Highlights of Artistic Career

What were some of the highlights of the artistic career of the artist?

Highlights of Frankenthaler's career include her early shows in 1951 and 1952, summers spent in Provincetown, Massachusetts, teaching at Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and New York University, and working on the set of an England's Royal Ballet production. (

List any awards, honors and/or exhibitions of her/his art work.

Frankenthaler has had a documentary made out of her. She has received various awards for her art. She has had many single-artist exhibitions held for her, including exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art and New York's Museum of Modern Art. (

Briefly discuss several significant works by the artist. Name the works and tell a little about each.

Frankenthaler's Jacob's Ladder is a stained painted abstraction of a Jacob's ladder. Frankenthaler insists that the title was given after the painting was finished and she developed the painting as she went along ( Frankenthaler's Madame Matisse appears to have a woman's silhouette against a deep greenish-blue color also accented with bright yellow and black. It may or may not be a statement for women's rights ( Frankenthaler's Mountains and Sea an abstraction of a landscape. It features soft colors and nonlinear lines. It portrays the "…expressive power of color" (Prebles' 424).

(This section is worth 25 points.)


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Frank, Patrick (Author). Prebles' Artforms: An Introduction to the Visual Arts [With CDROM] [PREBLES ARTFORMS 9/E W/CD]. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.

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<> Date Accessed October 26, 2010

<> Date Accessed October 26, 2010

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<> Date Accessed October 26, 2010