Why Is Helen Frankenthaler Important in Art History?

Art|Art History

Helen Frankenthaler is one of the most influential abstract expressionist painters in art history. She was born in New York City in 1928 and was raised in a wealthy family that encouraged her artistic pursuits.

Her work was heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting, and Minimalism. She developed her own style of “soak-staining” which involved soaking a canvas with paint, creating an effect that resembled a watercolor painting. This technique allowed her to create large, colorful paintings with a sense of fluidity and energy.

Frankenthaler’s work has been exhibited all over the world including major institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Tate Gallery in London. Her work has also been featured in numerous books and magazines including Vogue, ArtNews, Arts Magazine, and ARTnews International. She has won numerous awards for her artwork including two Guggenheim Fellowships and an Honorary Doctorate from Brandeis University.

Frankenthaler’s influence on abstract expressionism is undeniable. She pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable art by using unconventional techniques such as soaking her canvases with paint instead of applying it with a brush or palette knife.

Her works were often vibrant and expressive, depicting landscapes or scenes from nature in bright colors and sweeping brushstrokes. By experimenting with different materials, she created a unique style that has been emulated by many artists since then.

In addition to being a major contributor to abstract expressionism, Frankenthaler was also an advocate for women’s rights throughout her career. During the 1950s she was vocal about equal pay for women artists and equal rights for female artists within the art community. Throughout her career she used her platform to fight for gender equality as well as civil rights for all minorities.

Helen Frankenthaler’s legacy is marked by her contributions to abstract expressionism as well as her advocacy for women’s rights throughout her career. Her unique approach to painting revolutionized abstract expressionist art with its expressive colors, bold brushstrokes, and unusual materials like paint soaked canvases that allowed her to create large scale works of art with ease. Her works were celebrated both during her lifetime and after she passed away in 2011 at the age of 83; making it clear that she is one of the most important figures in modern art history.


Helen Frankenthaler is an important figure in modern art history due to her contributions to abstract expressionism through pioneering new techniques such as soak-staining which revolutionized how we look at large scale artwork today; but also due to being an advocate for women’s rights throughout her career which helped pave the way towards equality within the art world today.