New Britain Museum of American Art receives gift of Helen Frankenthaler painting

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation has gifted Helen Frankenthaler’s Estuary (1981) to the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT.

Helen Frankenthaler, whose career spanned six decades (1950s-2011), has long been recognized as one of the great American artists of the 20th century. She was eminent among the second generation of postwar American abstract painters and is widely credited for playing a pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting. Through her invention of the soak-stain technique in the early 1950s, she expanded the possibilities of abstract painting, while referencing figuration and landscape in unique ways.

Frankenthaler achieved extraordinary success during and after her lifetime. She was given her first solo exhibition in New York in 1951 at the age 23 and was the subject of career retrospectives in 1960 (Jewish Museum), 1969 (Whitney Museum; traveled internationally), and 1989 (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; traveled nationally).

In 2021, the NBMAA mounted an exhibition of her works on paper titled Helen Frankenthaler: Late Works 1990-2003. This exhibition explored her years in Connecticut, where she taught at Yale and lived and painted in Cornwall, Stamford, and Darien from the 1970s until her death.

Since 2015, Helen Frankenthaler’s remarkable painting Estuary has been on long-term loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. This year, the Foundation approved making a gift of Estuary to the NBMAA, where it can continue to be seen and enjoyed by our audiences in perpetuity. A highlight of the NBMAA’s 20th-century masterworks, Estuary employs Frankenthaler’s iconic soak-stain technique, as well as thick impasto and bright hues, which became prevalent in her works of the 1970s.

Throughout her career, Frankenthaler was greatly inspired by the natural landscape, as is the case in Estuary, whose title refers to the tidal mouth of a large river, where salt and fresh water meet.

In addition to seeing Frankenthaler’s Estuary on view now at the NBMAA, fans can also experience a virtual exhibition of Helen Frankenthaler: Late Works, 1990–2003 at

Originally presented February 11, 2021, through May 23, 2021, Helen Frankenthaler: Late Works, 1990–2003 was the first museum presentation dedicated to the exploration of works from Helen Frankenthaler’s late life, featuring approximately 22 works on paper dating from 1990 to 2003—some measuring over 6 feet. This virtual reality experience allows the show to live on beyond its time at the NBMAA and enables a larger audience to explore Frankenthaler’s later works.

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