1970s: East and Beyond, Savage Breeze, Essence Mulberry

Helen Frankenthaler
American, 1928–2011
Savage Breeze
Eight-color woodcut from eight woodblocks on handmade paper
Williams College Museum of Art, Gift of William H. McCulloch and Frank H. McCulloch, Class of 1968, in honor of Edith L. and Frank W. McCulloch, Class of 1926
© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), West Islip, L.I., New York

Helen Frankenthaler was already an experienced printmaker when she completed her first woodcut in 1973. Although she was reluctant to make prints during the first decade of her career, she had been a printmaker since 1961. Her printmaking experience began with creating lithographs at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), the storied print publisher founded by Tatyana Grosman in West Islip, Long Island, New York. Grosman played a significant role in Frankenthaler’s early print career, encouraging her to continually push forward into new media, such as lithography, etching, and aquatint. This influence compelled Frankenthaler to be the first to make a woodcut at ULAE. The result was East and Beyond (1973). While she struggled with her next print, Savage Breeze (1974), it is considered one of her best works and, together with East and Beyond, has been credited with marking the beginning of a woodcut revival in America.
Despite difficulties she experienced creating Savage Breeze, Frankenthaler returned to the practice in 1976, working with another major print publisher, Kenneth Tyler of Tyler Graphics in Bedford Village, New York. The resulting print, Essence Mulberry (1977), was created using a method that allows the grain of the wood to remain visible within deep and blended coloration and leaves a portion of the paper untouched. These three components—visible grain, depth of blended color, and paper treatment—marked the inauguration of a formal language that the artist employed throughout the rest of her career.