The Beautiful and the Sublime: Later Work

Helen Frankenthaler
American, 1928–2011

Red Shift
Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 76 in.
From the Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, courtesy of the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation Inc.
© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc.
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the 1960s and ’70s, while Frankenthaler’s painting became increasingly abstract, her interest in landscape persisted. Many of her compositions took the horizontal format of traditional landscape painting and were suggestive of nature through the poetic use of color. Yet for all of her paintings that celebrate nature as a joyous respite, as many point to its unpredictability and even violence. Many of her works of the 1980s and ’90s feature unsettling contrasts among colors and forms, evoking the drama inherent in nature. During these years, she was looking closely at landscapes by nineteenth-century painters such as Gustave Courbet and J.M.W. Turner; she was influenced by these artists’ depictions of nature as sublime and often terrifying, as well as beautiful.