A Buyer’s Guide To Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler’s Tales Of Genji I. An abstract expressionist woodcut print of an orange based landscape with various accent colours. Tales Of Genji I © Helen Frankenthaler 1998
Helena Poole

Helena Poole, Acquisitions Specialist[email protected]

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Helen Frankenthaler’s soak-stain technique earned her recognition as a trailblazing Abstract Expressionist. Over the course of her career, the artist’s art has continued to inspire collectors to build a portfolio of her most renowned works, now more accessible thanks to the prints market. As one of the most influential artists of her time, Frankenthaler's prints offer a gateway to own a piece of art history, allowing collectors to immerse themselves in the vibrant, fluid compositions that revolutionised abstract painting.

Who Is Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler was born on December 12, 1928, in New York City. From a young age, she displayed a deep affinity for art and was encouraged by her parents to pursue her creative passions. She studied at the Dalton School, where she received formal training in painting and drawing. In 1949, she enrolled at Bennington College in Vermont, under the tutelage of renowned artist Paul Feeley.

Frankenthaler's artistic breakthrough came in the 1950s when she developed a groundbreaking technique known as soak-stain. This technique revolutionised the field of abstract painting, enabling her to achieve vibrant, fluid compositions that defied traditional boundaries.

Throughout her career, Frankenthaler drew inspiration from nature and the landscape. She often referenced the natural world in her abstract works, creating compositions that evoked the essence of landscapes, seascapes, and atmospheric elements. Her ability to capture the sublime and the ephemeral through her expressive use of colour and form resonated with audiences worldwide.

Helen Frankenthaler’s Influence on Contemporary Art

Helen Frankenthaler's influence on contemporary art extends far beyond her own artistic achievements. Her innovative techniques and fearless exploration of colour and form have left an indelible mark on subsequent generations of artists, shaping the trajectory of contemporary art.

Her vibrant colour palette demonstrated how colour could mimic moods, memories, and sensations. Artists working in various mediums have been inspired by her ability to harness the emotional potential of colour, incorporating it into their own work to elicit profound responses from viewers.

Frankenthaler's commitment to breaking boundaries and pushing the limits of her medium has also influenced contemporary artists. Her fearlessness in exploring new techniques, materials, and conceptual frameworks has inspired a generation of artists to embrace experimentation and embrace risk-taking in their own practice. She encouraged artists like Morris Louis, Amy Sillman, and Elizabeth Murray to challenge conventions and to seek innovation, ultimately reshaping the landscape of contemporary art.

Why Invest in Helen Frankenthaler?

Collectors may find themselves interested in the Frankenthaler market solely because of her innovation in creating an entirely new technique in tandem with leading the new Color Field movement. Investing in her art allows collectors to own a piece of this influential movement and connect with a pivotal moment in art history.

Her artworks have gained significant recognition and appreciation over the years. Her pieces have been exhibited in major museums and galleries worldwide, cementing her status as a celebrated artist. The market demand for her work has grown steadily, leading to increased recognition and higher prices at auctions and in the art market.

Collectors who are keen on acquiring pieces from renowned artists often value the exclusivity and scarcity of their works. With a fixed number of Frankenthaler's original paintings as well as prints available, the desirability and potential investment value of her artworks are likely to remain high. As her legacy and influence continue to be recognised, and as the demand for significant works of Abstract Expressionism persists, the value of her art may increase over time. This makes her artworks an attractive option for collectors seeking both aesthetic enjoyment and potential financial returns.

Owning works by an artist like Frankenthaler can open up exhibition opportunities for collectors. Museums, galleries, and other art institutions may be interested in showcasing artworks by significant artists, providing collectors with the chance to share their collection with a wider audience and contribute to the cultural conversation.

Tips for Building a Helen Frankenthaler Print Collection

One of the first steps of art investing is to conduct thorough research. Study up on Frankenthaler’s printmaking techniques, explore the different periods of her print work, and develop an understanding of the diversity and uniqueness inherent in her prints. This knowledge will enhance your appreciation and discernment as a collector.

Determining your budget is crucial. Set a clear budget range that aligns with your financial capacity and desired level of investment. This step will help you make informed decisions and ensure a comfortable commitment to building your collection.

Authenticity and provenance are paramount in the art world. When acquiring prints, look for proper authentication and documentation. Seek prints that are signed and numbered, preferably by Helen Frankenthaler herself, or with authentication from reputable print studios or the artist's estate. Provenance, the documented history of ownership, adds value and ensures the legitimacy of the artwork.

Examining the condition of prints is essential. Carefully assess their overall state, ensuring they are in good condition and free from major damage, discoloration, or fading. Consider the preservation requirements of each print to ensure their longevity and continued aesthetic appeal.

Attending art exhibitions, galleries, and fairs that showcase Frankenthaler's prints is a valuable opportunity. Seeing the prints in person allows you to closely examine their details, engage with knowledgeable representatives, and discover new releases or limited editions. You can join art collector communities, participate in forums, or engage with social media groups dedicated to Helen Frankenthaler's prints. These connections can provide valuable insights, foster discussions, and potentially lead to exclusive opportunities for acquiring prints from private collections or trusted referrals.

Proper documentation and archival practices are crucial for the long-term preservation and traceability of your collection. Maintain detailed records of each print, including titles, edition numbers, acquisition dates, and relevant provenance or documentation. These records contribute to the value and credibility of your collection, especially if you ever decide to sell.

How to Determine the Value of Prints & Editions

Determining the value of prints and editions is an important aspect of art collecting, as it allows collectors to make informed decisions and understand the significance of their acquisitions while also providing the added benefit of helping collectors estimate what their budget may look like.

Research the Artist

Begin by researching the artist whose prints you are interested in collecting. Learn about their background, artistic style, significance within the art world, and their reputation among collectors and experts. Understanding the artist's standing and influence can provide valuable insights into the potential value of their prints.

Edition Size and Rarity

Edition size plays a significant role in determining the value of prints. Generally, the smaller the edition size, the higher the value. Limited edition prints with a lower number of copies available are often considered more desirable. You should also consider the rarity of the print within the artist's body of work. Prints that are part of a smaller or more sought-after edition can command higher prices

“I think technique determines aesthetic as much as one’s aesthetic determines a new medium.”
Helen Frankenthaler


Assess the quality and condition of the print, looking out for general wear and tear as well as only other damage that may have been caused due to improper care. Lower quality prints with minor damage the untrained eye cannot see may not seem like a large concern, however if it is a part of your investment strategy to sell at a later point, you risk receiving a satisfactory return.

Previous Ownership

Prints with a well-documented and prestigious provenance, such as those previously owned by notable collectors like celebrities or institutions, can enhance their value. You’ll want to ensure that the print comes with proper authentication, such as a certificate of authenticity or documentation from a reputable source.

Market Trends

Research auction records, gallery prices, and data on the prints marketplace to understand how an artist’s prints performed in the market. This information can provide valuable insights into the value and potential return on investment.

Helen Frankenthaler’s Most Popular Prints

Frankenthaler's prints exemplify her pioneering techniques and vibrant colour use, offering art collectors unique opportunities to own a piece of art history. Her top prints are particularly celebrated for their emotional depth, technical innovation, and rising value in the art market, making them sought-after pieces for both appreciation and investment.


Grey Fireworks

Frankenthaler's screenprint Grey Fireworks, valued between £20,000 and £30,000, has seen its value climb steadily, achieving a notable 59% annual growth. With only 108 editions, it has been auctioned four times since 2015, showing increasing interest. This piece encapsulates Frankenthaler's mastery in blending colours and emotions, offering viewers a vibrant yet subdued experience.


Savage Breeze

This 1974 piece explores Frankenthaler’s unique perspective on nature and the interplay between organic forms and abstract expressions. The print carries an estimate of £170,000 to £250,000, reflecting its rarity with only 31 editions. Achieving one auction sale on 21st April 2022, it returned £84,734 to the seller. Savage Breeze exemplifies Frankenthaler's pioneering approach to woodcut techniques, offering a dynamic interplay of form and colour.


Tales Of Genji III

Frankenthaler's Tales Of Genji III, a 1998 woodcut print, is valued between £100,000 and £150,000. It has been auctioned three times since its debut in October 2014, showing a steady value increase with an 11% yearly growth. Limited to 36 editions, this work has seen prices from £110,581 to £172,823 in recent years, highlighting its growing allure and Frankenthaler's skillful expression

How to Authenticate Helen Frankenthaler Prints & Editions

You can authenticate your art prints and editions in a similar method to determining their value, methods based on extensive and time consuming research. If the details of signature analysis, publishing marks, paper quality, and provenance are too time consuming, outsourcing is a preferred option.

Experts or professional appraisers who specialise in the prints market have the knowledge and skillset to authenticate your prints while offering valuable insights and guidance that help you avoid costly mishaps.

How Do You Check the Condition of a Print?

To check the condition of the print, you’ll mostly focus on the detail of the materials. Is there any fading or discoloration from sun exposure? Is there any visible damage due to its storage conditions? Do you notice any tears or evidence of minor repair on your print? Questions like these should be at the top of your list when conducting a quality and condition check of any prints you’d like to acquire. Of course, your art broker can assist you in this process, however as an avid collector, you may want to begin to develop a keen eye for this to aid you in your future investment.

“The making of them, controlling them, and the surprise of them is a gesture that I do best.”
Helen Frankenthaler

Where Can I Buy a Helen Frankenthaler Print?

Online marketplaces, auction houses, art fairs and reputable art dealers who specialise in Frankenthaler may have prints available for purchase. It is worth noting however, that specific brokerages within the secondary market who have expertise in not only an artist, but prints market itself can provide an added, fool-proof value for first time or seasoned collectors.

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Collecting Helen Frankenthaler Prints with MyArtBroker

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