FRANKENTHALER: Paintings on Paper (1949 - 2002)

RSA Lower Galleries

Admission £5/£3.50 concession (under 12s free)


Painting on Paper provides Frankenthaler with an arena for experimentation in gesture and control. Her love of paper started in childhood, and she has retained the creative freedom she experienced working on paper in those early years. Over the past 10 years, she has worked almost exclusively on paper and in a scale that sometimes rivals her large canvases measuring 6 x 7ft.


Intriguingly, Frankenthaler paints her canvases like watercolours and her works on paper like paintings. For her canvasses, she often painted with the stain technique that she innovated during the early 1950’s when she began thinning her pigments to the consistency of watercolour and pouring them onto un-sized canvas.


In contrast, Frankenthaler’s paintings on paper tend to be opaque and layered with oil or acrylic paint and mixed media. Many of the paintings on paper are clearly coaxed into existence. Although they incorporate accidental drips and marks, they appear to have been worked upon with intense labour and considerable calculation.


As Curator, Bonnie Clearwater, notes, “The most successful of Frankenthaler’s paintings on paper embody the elements of ‘great’ works of art or sublime moments in nature. They create and intense emotional experience.”


By focusing on her rich body of painting on paper, this exhibition will redirect the conventional art historical emphasis on Frankenthaler’s stain technique to her career-long fascination with creating paintings that are arenas of convincing, thrilling space occupied by infinitely energetic and graceful forms.


Frankenthaler: Paintings on Paper (1949 – 2002) is accompanied by a 112 page publication (hardcover, 96 plates) with essay by Bonnie Clearwater.


About the Artist
Helen Frankenthaler was born in New York City on December 12, 1928. She attended The Dalton School in New York where she studied with Rufino Tamayo. IN 1949, she graduated from Bennington College and went on to take courses at the Graduate School of Fine Arts at Columbia University. In 1950, through the noted art critic Clement Greenberg, Frankenthaler met artists David Smith, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman and others.


She had her first solo exhibition at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1951 and painted her monumental painting Mountains and Sea in 1952. She received early recognition for her contribution to American abstract painting and had her first career survey exhibition at the Jewish Museum, New York, in 1960. Frankenthaler’s last full-scale retrospective was organised by E A Carmean, Jr., for the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, and premiered at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1989.


Frankenthaler was the subject of a major monograph by John Elderfield published by Abrams in 1989. A recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the National Medal of the Arts in 2001, Frankenthaler was elected as Honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 2001.


The exhibition was first shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Spring 2003 and is presented in Scotland by the Royal Scottish Academy (only European showing!)


Frankenthaler: Paintings on Paper (1949 – 2003) has been organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Florida USA and was curated by Bonnie Clearwater. The exhibition has been generously sponsored by The Citigroup Private Bank. Additional support provided by Gillette, Funding Arts Network, Audrey and David Mirvish, Paula and Joel Friedland, The Braman Family Foundation, and Nancy and Michael Gifford.


The Royal Scottish Academy gratefully acknowledges sponsorship from The Royal Bank of Scotland and support from the Dunard Fund.