Helen Frankenthaler and the Berkshires

Although well known as part of a group of artists living and working in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s, Helen Frankenthaler was drawn to the Berkshires and surrounding areas throughout her life. In 1945, she enrolled at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, then a women’s college. Following her graduation, in 1949, she participated in a group show at the college in 1953 and a solo show in 1962, among others. In 1976, she spoke at the dedication of a new arts building, recalling her education fondly. In April 2015, the college named its visual arts wing the Helen Frankenthaler Visual Arts Center in her honor.

While Frankenthaler undoubtedly had some exposure to the nearby and then all-male Williams College and its museum, she had already graduated and moved to New York before the Clark Art Institute opened its doors in 1955. She returned to Williams College during the academic year of 1979, as an artist-in-residence. A retrospective of her prints was shown at the Clark the next year (Helen Frankenthaler Prints: 1961–1979); the exhibition also traveled to four museums nationwide. With the return of some of the artist’s greatest woodblock prints to the Clark, No Rules adds another chapter to the artist’s ongoing story in the region.