146
146

THREE DECADES OF AMERICAN ABSTRACTION: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT AMERICAN COLLECTION

Helen Frankenthaler
GALILEO
Estimate
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 972,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
146

THREE DECADES OF AMERICAN ABSTRACTION: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT AMERICAN COLLECTION

Helen Frankenthaler
GALILEO
Estimate
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 972,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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New York

Helen Frankenthaler
1928 - 2011
GALILEO
signed; signed, titled and dated '89 on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
61 3/4 by 105 in. 156.8 by 266.7 cm.
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Provenance

Private Collection, Seoul (acquired directly from the artist in 1990)
Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 1998, Lot 110
Private Collection, U.S.A. (acquired from the above sale)
Thence by descent to the present owner

Exhibited

Seoul, Kukje Gallery, Helen Frankenthaler, September - October 1991, n.p., illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Helen Frankenthaler’s Galileo is a radiant example of the artist’s late paintings. With its celestial imagery and swirling hues of fuchsia and verdigris, Frankenthaler invokes the astronomical discoveries of the work’s namesake. Frankenthaler became a celebrated figure in the American art scene in the 1950s and 1960s for work made in response to the formalism of the Abstract Expressionist giants, namely Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Her early work was as much a part of this movement as a departure from it, and as Morris Louis once posited, created a “bridge between Pollock and what was possible” (John Yau, ‘On Her Own’, in Helen Frankenthaler: East and Beyond, New York 2011, p. 5).

Frankenthaler’s oeuvre, while historically associated with the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field painters, is uniquely important in its propensity for constant evolution. Galileo specifically locates itself at a point in Frankenthaler’s career when the color washing of her early decades, those large works of gestural abstraction on unprimed canvas, became more deliberate and careful, and her colors more deep and saturated. Galileo is substantial amongst these works with its broad swaths of fuchsia, layered over a base of deep merlot that suggest a complex depth and spatiality. The perpendicular splash of seafoam green, with a saturated, unending stroke of intense emerald interrupts this depth and brings the eye from left to right, giving the canvas a kind of circular movement. The radiating amber orb, anchoring the right side of the composition, lends itself further to this sense of movement, implying a setting sun and perhaps explaining the work’s nod to Galileo. 

Frankenthaler’s abstraction, however, defies real world association. While her canvases from this period often invoke expansive landscapes, to classify them as such would be to limit the range of their expression. It is this tendency for flexible interpretation and attractive elusiveness that defines Frankenthaler’s work and makes her an undeniable force in American abstraction.   

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
New York