Morgan Ridler

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2006

Capstone Advisor

Sandra Chai

Honors Reader

Alan Braddock

Capstone Major

Art and Music Histories

Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality. There’s no danger then, anyway, because the idea of the object will have left an indelible mark. It is what started the artist off, excited his ideas, and stirred up his emotions. Ideas and emotions will in the end be prisoners in his work. Whatever they do, they can’t escape from the picture. They form an integral part of it, even when their presence is no longer discernible. — Picasso1 Helen Frankenthaler is an Abstract Expressionist painter who seems to prove Picasso’s point of view. She is an Abstract Expressionist painter who employs the techniques of abstraction but with links to the recognizable— particularly to nature. She uses her emotions, aesthetic sense, experiences and artistic training to paint large abstract canvases. Frankenthaler’s abstractions are not meaningless shapes or random paint strokes. Her paintings have a strong link to other sources and inspirations. Helen Frankenthaler uses abstraction and landscape in combination to achieve deeper meanings. However, her paintings are not replications of the natural world. They can be considered “interior landscapes.” Frankenthaler does not consciously begin to paint a landscape, but she allows her thoughts and feelings to guide her work, pouring paint onto a canvas spread on the floor. With this technique Frankenthaler creates environments of paint. Many, if not most, of Frankenthaler’s paintings prove her tie between abstraction and landscape. Mountains and Sea of 1952 is Frankenthaler’s most famous work, and the watershed work from which the rest of her career began. It is not only the work in which she first used her renowned innovation, stain painting, it is also a prime example of her abstract landscapes. Frankenthaler would continue to resolve the apparent dichotomy between landscape and abstraction in the majority of her canvases from 1952 to the present day. This study will consider a selection of works from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, to demonstrate this theme in the work of Helen Frankenthaler. 1 Christian Zervos, “Conversation avec Picasso,” Cahiers d’Art (Paris), 1935. Reprinted in Dore Ashton, Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views in The Documents of 20th-Century Art (Harmondsworth, UK and New York: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1972; rpt. 1977), p. 64.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.