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Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928)

Woman's Decision

Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928)
Woman's Decision
signed and dated 'Frankenthaler 59' (lower right); signed again 'Frankenthaler' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
70 x 40 in. (177.8 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 1959.
Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Lewis C. Merrill, New York
Noah Goldowsky, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1969
B. Rose, Frankenthaler, New York, 1971, no. 68 (illustrated).
J. Elderfield, Frankenthaler, New York, 1989, pp. 136-137 (illustrated).
New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, March-April 1960.
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Selections from the William J. Hokin Collection, April-June 1985, p. 45 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Woman's Decision is a quintessential Abstract Expressionist painting by Helen Frankenthaler, executed during the 1950's, that heady decade of artistic ferment in New York when she created some of her most dynamic and historically important works . It is one of relatively few Helen Frankenthaler paintings from this period to come to market.

Painted when she was just thirty-one years old, Woman's Decision is a complex composition in which Frankenthaler demonstrates her innate ability to absorb influences, yet remaining true to her own vision. This present lot shows the influence of Jackson Pollock's drips and splashes, as well as the big brush painterly passages favored by de Kooning at the time, but has the unerring color sense and touch that is uniquely her own. The painting is resolutely abstract, yet also evokes a landscape, or a figure.

Frankenthaler frames the composition elements within large vertical areas of canvas that have been covered with several thinner layers of warmer tones which build up to provide a counterbalance to the large, constricting borders of black paint. Explaining her early adoption of this technique Frankenthaler noted, 'I needed something more liquid, watery, thinner. All my life I've been drawn to water and translucency.One of may favorite childhood games was to fill a sink with water an put nail varnish into to it to see what happened when the colors burst upon the surface, merging into each other as floating changing shapes' (quotes in After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler 1956-59, New York, 1998, p.39).

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