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Selene (work of art)

Artwork Info

96 x 67 1/2 inches (243.8 x 171.5 centimeters)


Gift of Mary and Jim Patton

Object Number

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • Helen Frankenthaler was one of the founders of color field painting, an art style that can be seen in this painting. Color field painters used large washes of color as the focus of their artwork. 
  • Her style of painting came out of the abstract expressionist art movement. Instead of making realistic-looking art, these artists used colors, lines, and shapes to show their emotions. 
  • Frankenthaler created her own painting technique and was not afraid to break the “rules” of painting. She created paintings by pouring buckets of thinned-out paint directly onto the canvas.

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Helen Frankenthaler began as an abstract expressionist artist before she developed her own art style called color field painting. Abstract expressionist artists used simple colors, lines, and shapes to create art that showed their emotions or inner thoughts. Unlike most artists that came before them, these artists were not concerned with making their art look realistic. They also didn’t limit themselves to the art techniques of the past. One of the most famous abstract expressionists was Jackson Pollock, who dripped paint over canvas that he laid on the floor instead of putting his canvas on an easel. Frankenthaler was inspired by this technique and began painting her canvas on the floor.

“There are no rules… that is how art is born, that is how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules, that is what invention is about.” -Helen Frankenthaler 

Her creative technique involved pouring buckets of thinned-out paint directly onto the canvas. Her art technique led to the development of color field painting as an abstract art style. Artists who used this style painted washes of color on large canvases. Their art did not tell a story. It focused on the colors and properties of the colors themselves. Frankenthaler inspired other color field painters, including Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. Their work is also featured in the NCMA collection. 

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  • An abstract painting with large, dark gray and burgundy washes of color below a light peach-toned wash of color.