Venice

View of “Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992,” 2019, Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice. Left: For E.M., 1981. Right: Riverhead, 1963. Photo: Matteo De Fina.

View of “Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992,” 2019, Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice. Left: For E.M., 1981. Right: Riverhead, 1963. Photo: Matteo De Fina.

Helen Frankenthaler

Museo di Palazzo Grimani

View of “Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992,” 2019, Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice. Left: For E.M., 1981. Right: Riverhead, 1963. Photo: Matteo De Fina.

“THE BEAUTIES OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER’S WORK are various and dramatic,” wrote the poet and critic Frank O’Hara. The year was 1960, and Frankenthaler, just thirty-one, was enjoying her first major survey, at the Jewish Museum in New York. “She is willing to risk the big gesture, to employ huge formats so that her essentially intimate revelations may be more fully explored and delineated,” O’Hara continued in his catalogue essay. “She is willing to declare erotic and sentimental pre-occupations full-scale and with full conviction.”

Tragically, O’Hara lived to see only the first few movements in the drama of Frankenthaler’s oeuvre. He was killed in an accident on Fire Island in the summer of 1966, the same summer in which her paintings were feted in the US pavilion of the Thirty-Third Venice Biennale. Frankenthaler survived O’Hara by four and a half decades. She continued painting

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