November 09, 2021 – Reblog/Review : How Helen Frankenthaler’s Color-Soaked Canvases Won Over the Art Market, via Justin Kamp at #Artsy

How Helen Frankenthaler's Color-Soaked Canvases Won Over the Art Market via Artsy
How Helen Frankenthaler’s Color-Soaked Canvases Won Over the Art Market via Artsy

There’s lots of reasons I like reading about artists whose lives are considered successful, in one form or another – money, fame, critical acclaim, etc.

But the biggest reason I’ve found for myself, whether reading about Monet or Renoir or Berthe Morisot or a contemporary of, Helen’s – Joan Mitchell (which I recently reblog/reviewed an article of) – if the article is as fearless and fair as one can be, considering how idiosyncratic art can or should be, and —

…the depiction of the artist in the article rings true as a human being —

…and, I learn “something” about my own artistic life.

There will be something, or some things, in the towering perseverance of their life and achievement which gives, artists – esp me, at my level, lol! – a mirror about what anyone in any creative field experiences. The searching, the finding(s), the doubts, the surenesses. Enduring….

And I surely find this true reading about Helen Frankenthaler’s creative life.

Even if my 1st attraction to learning about her was that our oldest girl shares her first name, lol! ❤️

So here, with a BW photo of Helen, the painter, at work on a large canvas, are a selection of quotes from the article.

I haven’t given away all that’s in it, much to do with how the art market apparently “works.”

But I did want to express how the article – with words & images – conveyed both, how innovative Helen was, and that she eventually merged her various innovations and approaches over a long period of time.

I think she’s a monumental legacy of creativity, as important as her resultant art, that she’s left to all of us today —

In 1952, Frankenthaler began work on her painting Mountains and Sea, a defining work in the development of the burgeoning Color Field movement. The piece was the first example of Frankenthaler’s hallmark soak-stain method of painting, in which the artist thinned her oil paint with turpentine to a watery consistency and then poured it across an unprimed canvas laid flat on the floor, an orientation she came to after watching Pollock work at his studio on Long Island.

I’ve only recently even started seeing acrylic “pouring” videos, from artists working today, and here this young woman, an artist in her early 20s, Helen Frankenthaler, brought this method into being after seeing a fellow artist doing some similar, but not, if I understand this correctly, the same.

Mountains and Sea by the way, which she painted in 1952, is my favorite of the limited work of hers I’ve seen online or in print so far.

And she continued to innovate her work into the 70s —

As collectors began to catch up, Frankenthaler was already perfecting the aspect of her practice that would be the engine of her market for years to come: her bold, expressive use of color…According to Saara Pritchard, a senior specialist of contemporary art at Sotheby’s..’Most of the works that are reaching high prices are paintings from the 1970s, because by then, the works are so fully saturated in color’..“She’s really figured out how to layer the colors, as opposed to just working more in detail.”

Below is a great BW photo of Helen from the article, working on a large canvas —

How Helen Frankenthaler's Color-Soaked Canvases Won Over the Art Market via Artsy
How Helen Frankenthaler’s Color-Soaked Canvases Won Over the Art Market via Artsy

And below, part of how she was continuing to combine and develop her dominant interests of scale, color and layering, with sample imagery in the article —

Nearly two decades after first developing the soak-stain method, Frankenthaler had fully absorbed the technique, incorporating it into her every facet of her approach. Her canvases were now sites of complete chromatic saturation; she used thin washes not only to create gestural forms, but to weave together undulating fields of color that unfurled across the entire picture plane.

And —

It’s only natural that Frankenthaler’s posthumous success, like so much of the career that preceded it, would center on the vast emotional possibilities that color can confer upon a viewer. When asked why Royal Fireworks was so successful, Pritchard could only resort to describing the experience of it….

Pritchard’s description of why Helen Frankenthaler’s “Royal Fireworks” painting was so successful, along with the sample image of it, I’ll leave for you to explore in the article – along with the rest of this very interesting, surprisingly informative narrative about the upper-purchasing world in art ❤️

I’ll only add that, yes, color has vast emotional possibilities, but it was the way Helen conveyed color, that created those possibilities, and that, quite evidently, took some doing on her part 🙏


Final thoughts
For me, the beauty and value of the article, besides learning about such a pivotal artist as Helen, who’ve I’ve only become aware of recently, is how extraordinarily parallel this remarkable woman’s progress is to so many artists’ work I see work via their blogs today.

There was this young artist, breaking ground that many of us are just scratching the surface of, esp me – that’s for sure! – and I’m just now learning about her.

Sure, if I’d gotten an art degree, I’d’ve known about her long ago. But to be such an influence on so many gifted artists today, here in Austin, or around the world via the internet, esp (for me) Twitter and WordPress, seems odd.

And if I had to guess, from where I barely can see art of this type in person here in Austin, and had to guess what the reason Helen is now winning over the art market, it’s because her work is finally being seen more broadly, and her story is being more broadly broadcast.

And like the little of Berthe Morisot’s work I’ve seen live, which has created a life long love affair with her art within me, it could be, if I also got to see Helen Frankenthaler’s other color soaked vastnesses live – I might change my mind which of her work, that I have seen live, I liked best 😊

Meanwhile, for now, I’ll stick with one of her seminal works, the lovely soft surprising full of visual twists, Mountains and Sea, top of the post ❤️

Plus the image Justin Kamp presented, of an artist who struggled to be herself, and persevered 💕

Regardless what the art market brought, or didn’t…..


My series of reblogs can be browsed at –


Thanks so much everyone! Stay curious, stay creative!!


Direct link to blog post in tweet above, Impressionist Art of Seeing and Being Seen 😊

Direct link to my watercolor abstract, Ridges of Spring Light blog post above 😊

My Related Blog Posts


My Related Amazon Affiliate Search Products

My Amazon search for Helen Frankenthaler —

Direct link to Ninth Street Women above on Amazon –

Twitter / Instagram / FB @FelipeAdanLerma
Amazon Author Page –
Fine Art America (FAA, Pixels) –


  1. […] reblog/review, also via Artsy, but by a different author, went into a indepth look at how the art market has been responding to Helen Frankenthaler’s work for nearly 3/4s of a century now.Along the way, I found the article’s included informational […]

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