Inspired by the 'all-over' style of painting made famous by Jackson Pollock, Frankenthaler produced 'Mountains and Sea' in 1952. In this, she developed Pollock's drip technique by pouring and running very thin paint onto canvases laid on the floor. According to the critic, Clement Greenberg, this painting was the “first monument of Post-Painterly Abstraction”; it is certainly one of the most important works in the 'Color-Field' style. The painters Morris Louis and Kenneth Nolan were deeply impressed by Frankenthaler and began to experiment with the techniques she was employing. Thereafter, Frankenthaler remained a defining force in the development of American painting.
By 1962, she changed from oil to acrylic painting allowing stronger colors and increased vibrancy, for example, 'Interior Landscape' (1964).
Since 1960, she also worked in ceramics and made aquatints, lithographs and woodcuts. She collaborated with Kenneth E. Tyler. The first piece they created together was Essence of Mulberry (1977), a woodcut that used eight different colours.
In 1995, the pair collaborated again, creating The Tales of Genji, a series of six woodcut prints. Helen Frankenthaler then went on to create Madame Butterfly, a print that employed one hundred and two different colors and forty-six woodblocks. Madame Butterfly is seen as the ultimate translation of Helen Frankenthaler’s style into the medium of woodcuts, as it embodies her idea of creating an image that looks as if it happened all at once.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Frankenthaler did take a highly public stance during the late 1980s "culture wars" that eventually led to deep budget cuts for the National Endowment for the Arts and a ban on grants to individual artists that still persists.
She died on 27th December, 2011 (aged 83) in Darien, Connecticut, United States.
Throughout her long career, Helen Frankenthaler experimented tirelessly, and, in addition to unique paintings on canvas and paper, she worked in a wide range of media, including ceramics, sculpture, tapestry, and especially printmaking. Hers was a significant voice in the mid-century “print renaissance” among American abstract painters, and she is particularly renowned for her woodcuts.
"There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about."