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Stair Galleries is pleased to be offering personal property from the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), whose career spanned six decades, has long been recognized as one of the great American artists of the Twentieth Century. Following her graduation from Bennington College in 1949, she quickly went on to become one of America’s most celebrated abstract painters. Heir of first-generation abstract expressionism, she was eminent among the second generation of post-war American abstract painters and is widely credited for playing a pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting. One of the foremost colorists of our time, she produced a body of work whose impact on contemporary art has been profound.

Important works by Frankenthaler can be found in major museums worldwide and her work has been the subject of significant national and international exhibitions and substantial publications. She was the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates, honors, and awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 2001.

Frankenthaler grew up in a wealthy Manhattan family who encouraged her artistic talent from a young age. Her family travelled and lived with beautiful things, instilling in her as a young person the pleasure of living well. Frankenthaler’s own personal taste can be seen in the jewelry, clothing and accessories she owned. Her style was, for the most part, simple and classic. Bohemian clothes and accessories from the 1960’s and 70’s represent the aesthetic of that period, during which Frankenthaler experimented with her art and matured as an artist. More conservative possessions from later in her life are typical of the refined, comfortable lifestyle she led at her home in Connecticut until her death in 2011.

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Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co. 18k Yellow Gold and Cultured Pearl Torsade Necklace, Property from the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler, June 5th auction.

The jewelry in this collection spans a wide range of styles, from heirloom gemstone pieces to tribal and ethnographic necklaces. Highlights include a Fabergé Silver-Gilt, Enamel and Diamond Buckle, Converted to a Brooch, Michael Perchin, St. Petersburg; an 18k Yellow Gold, Enamel, Pearl, Diamond and Emerald Brooch; and a Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co. 18k Yellow Gold and Cultured Pearl Torsade Necklace.

Frankenthaler’s simple, elegant style was reflected in the way she dressed in and outside of her studio. For evening, her fashion was understated and modest, favoring classic designers like Bill Blass and Yves Saint Laurent. Included in the sale will be dresses by Yves Saint Laurent, Bill Blass, and Givenchy, as well as Chanel day separates. Frankenthaler often wore silk scarves and the collection has many designer ones to choose from. Also included in the auction are Gucci and Louis Vuitton handbags, cashmere shawls and leather travelling cases.

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Ten Mexican Blue Stemware, Property from the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler, June 5th auction.

The furnishings in her Connecticut home were a combination of utilitarian furniture and classic “design” pieces, including tables by Alvar Aalto, stools by Charles and Ray Eames, and chairs by Herman Miller. She travelled extensively and collected plates and glasses from France, Portugal, Italy and Mexico. Also included in the collection are crystal glasses, silver barware, sets of china and Asian objects.

Seen together, the furnishings and personal property from the home of Helen Frankenthaler give a rare glimpse into the personal life and taste of one of America’s greatest artists.

For more information on the upcoming auction, please visit Sale Information.

Further Reading:

  • Helen Frankenthaler: Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959, by John Elderfield
  • Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color: Paintings 1962-1963, by Elizabeth Smith
  • TheArtStory.org, Helen Frankenthaler
  • Guggenheim.org, Helen Frankenthaler
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