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signed and dated 'Frankenthaler '71' (lower right); titled 'NAPOLEON' (on the overlap)
acrylic and marker on canvas
104 1⁄8 x 101 1⁄8 in. (264.5 x 256.9 cm.)
Painted in 1971.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1973
C. Nemser, "Interview with Helen Frankenthaler," Arts Magazine, November 1971, p. 54 (illustrated).
K. Baker, "The Home Forum," Christian Science Monitor, January 1972, p. 8 (illustrated).
M. Owens, "An Inquiring Mind: South Arabian sculptures, Old Master drawings, and cutting-edge photography make fashion designer Kasper's apartment a work of art," Architectural Digest, April 2011, p. 110 (illustrated).
New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Helen Frankenthaler, November-December 1971, n.p. (illustrated).
Sale room notice
Please note the correct medium for this work is acrylic and marker on canvas.

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Lot Essay

Painted during a time of confidence and renewal for the artist, Helen Frankenthaler’s majestic canvas, Napoleon, from 1971, represents an artist at the height of her artistic prowess. A pool of cobalt washes dramatically inwards towards an organic, dark caramel cascade. The canvas is articulated by narrow passages of bare canvas framing the striations of pure, dense pigments that dominate the composition. Executed with a mastery of the pouring and staining technique, Napoleon, measuring almost nine feet in both directions, epitomizes Frankenthaler’s interest in gesture and the effects of pure color. Of Frankenthaler's technique, John Elderfield writes, "The staining of the paint, however, tends to distance and to disembody the images it creates so that, irrespective of their brightness, they seem strangely to be removed from the sharply practical world of real objects and events. Not as much objects as the shadows and echoes of objects, the images have lonely the most precarious of identities as instruments of depiction. They are continually being returned, as we look at them, to the pigmented wetness from which they were created, whose own, independent beauty holds our attention certainly as much as what they seem to describe... Color beyond ordinary; an unconstructed freedom of composition; an open, breathing surface; absolute candor in its making and in its address to the spectator: all combine to tell of a benign and idyllic, if fragile, domain of innocence and pleasure." (J. Elderfield, Helen Frankenthaler, New York, 1989, p. 11). In this ode to the heroic military leader, Frankenthaler demonstrates a liberated spirit which she carried throughout the rest of her prolific and remarkable career.

From 1971, Napoleon was made two years after Frankenthaler had reached critical and institutional acclaim. It was at this time that the Whitney Museum of American Art put on a major retrospective curated by Eugene C. Goossen that travelled throughout the United States and Europe. Later that year, Frankenthaler was the only female painter to be represented in Henry Galdzahler’s ground-breaking exhibition, New York Painting and Sculpture, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The second generation Abstract Expressionist artist indisputably entered the 1970s as one of the major figures in contemporary painting. Collector Herbert Kasper purchased the painting in 1973 from Frankenthaler's preeminent dealer, André Emmerich, and it remained in his private collection for almost fifty years.

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