Art historian Katy Siegel quotes Frankenthaler in 1964 in response to a question from Henry Geldzahler, then the curator of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum, “How do you feel about being a woman painter?” Frankenthaler replied, Obviously, first I am involved in painting not the who and the how… Looking at my paintings as if they were painted by a woman is superficial, a side issue… The making of serious painting is difficult and complicated for all serious painters. One must be oneself, whatever.”

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Helen Frankenthaler, Robinson’s Wrap, 1974

 

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Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Grace Hartigan at the opening of Frankenthaler’s solo exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, February 12, 1957. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery and Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos

 

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Helen Frankenthaler in her 10th Street Studio, New York, circa 1951-52. Photo credit: Cora Kelley Ward. Courtesy Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, New York

Helen Frankenthaler, a painter who is having a seriously revitalized pop culture moment, was among those who also resisted this label.

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In a dynamic and excellently illustrated new book with essays about her ongoing influence, “The heroine Paint” After Frankenthaler” published by Gagosian Gallery, the art historian Katy Siegel quotes Frankenthaler in 1964 in response to a question from Henry Geldzahler, then the curator of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum,

“How do you feel about being a woman painter?”

Frankenthaler replied,

Obviously, first I am involved in painting not the who and the how… Looking at my paintings as if they were painted by a woman is superficial, a side issue… The making of serious painting is difficult and complicated for all serious painters. One must be oneself, whatever.

(“The heroine Paint” After Frankenthaler edited by Katy Siegel. Cover artwork © 2015 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Rob McKeever.)

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