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Helen Frankenthaler, Prominent Abstract Painter

DARIEN, Conn. – Influential abstract painter and Darien resident Helen Frankenthaler died at her home Tuesday, according to a report in the New York Times . She was 83 years old.

Born in New York City on Dec. 12, 1928, Frankenthaler was one of the leaders of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Using techniques developed by Jackson Pollock, Frankenthaler’s method, known as Color Field, consisted of pouring turpentine-thinned paint onto raw canvas in watery washes.

“Her staining method emphasized the flat surface over illusory depth, and called attention to the very nature of paint on canvas, a concern of artists and critics at the time,” The Times said.

She was interested in art from a very young age, and studied with the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo at the Dalton School. She entered Bennington College in 1946 and later joined the Tibor de Nagy gallery, where she had her first solo show in 1951.

Her first major museum exhibit was at the Jewish Museum in 1960. The show was a retrospective of her 1950s work.

The Times writes that she rarely discussed the sources of her abstract imagery, but that “it reflected her impressions of landscape, her meditations on personal experience and the pleasures of dealing with paint.”

In 1958, she married the Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell. The two were divorced in 1971. She married investment banker Stephen M. DuBrul Jr. in 1994, and in 1999 the couple moved to Darien.

She is survived by her husband, two stepdaughters and six nieces and nephews.

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