Helen Frankenthaler was born on December 12, 1928 in New York City to a wealthy Upper East Side family. She first studied art at the Dalton School before pursuing an advanced degree at Bennington College in Vermont. It is here, under the direction of Paul Feeley, where Frankenthaler began to develop a more mature artistic style. Frankenthaler was quickly introduced to the New York art world through her relationship with the major critic and writer Clement Greenberg, whose writing on abstract expressionism also heavily influenced her early artistic style. Her relationship with Greenberg ended in 1955 and she married Robert Motherwell, a master of abstract expressionism in 1958. The couple was a major fixture in New York’s art scene and Frankenthaler quickly rose to fame.
Frankenthaler’s style changed several times throughout her career as a painter and prink-maker. She initially won acclaim for her pioneering abstract expressionist works, which were based on forms found in nature. Her works tend to be very colorful. In fact, by the 1960s, Frankenthaler began to experiment with color field paintings, in which the entire, or almost the entire, canvas was covered in a single hue, eliminating the emotion and gestural strokes of abstract expressionism. Frankenthaler, unlike many of her contemporaries, painted almost entirely in private, without relying too much on assistants.