A Buyer’s Guide To Helen Frankenthaler

Essie King
written by Essie King,
Date of publication8 Mar 2024
Last updated14 May 2024
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, Specialist[email protected]

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Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler

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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.



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Helen Frankenthaler’s Influence on Contemporary Art

Frankenthaler's influence on contemporary art extends well beyond her personal artistic achievements. Her bold techniques and fearless exploration of colour and form have shaped subsequent generations of artists, guiding the course of contemporary abstract art. It wasn't merely her use of colours; she was meticulous in selecting hues to reflect moods and sensations. Artists working across various mediums have drawn inspiration from her skill in harnessing the emotional potential of colour, integrating it into their own works to evoke profound responses from viewers. Her fearlessness in exploring new techniques, materials, and conceptual frameworks has inspired a generation of artists including Morris Louis, Amy Sillman, and Elizabeth Murray to embrace experimentation and risk-taking in their own practice.

Why Invest in Helen Frankenthaler?

Frankenthaler's artwork is highly sought after not only for its aesthetic appeal but also for the innovative techniques employed in each piece. Her approach involved meticulous blending and bleeding of paint, aligning with the principles of the emerging colour field movement. Initially associated with abstract expressionists of the 1950s, Frankenthaler belonged to a new wave of artists aiming to strip away mythic or religious narratives linked to the earlier movement. Instead, they concentrated on gestural applications that added layers of meaning and interpretation to their works.

Her artworks have consistently garnered significant recognition and appreciation over the years, finding homes in major museums and galleries worldwide. This solidifies her status as a celebrated artist with prestigious provenance tied to her name. Over the past seven years, Frankenthaler's print market has witnessed a steady and remarkable growth. The demand for her work has been fuelled by three notable sales in each consecutive year from 2020 to 2023. In 2020, Royal Fireworks (1975) set a new auction record for Frankenthaler, fetching £6.4 million at Sotheby's. Similarly, in 2023, three of her paintings surpassed the £2 million mark each, ranking among Frankenthaler's top ten highest-valued works.

Collectors who seek to acquire pieces from renowned artists often place great value on the exclusivity and rarity of their works. The year 2023 marked a significant period of recognition for Frankenthaler, highlighted by several high-value sales. One notable piece set to be auctioned at Phillips' May New York auction is valued at £1.9 million. While quality Frankenthaler works, known for their vibrant colour palettes, are scarce, her career spanned various mediums. She was closely associated with the American Print Renaissance, a movement that flourished from the mid-1940s to the mid-1980s, transforming printmaking into an avant-garde medium. Frankenthaler was among the pioneering artists in this movement along with her husband, fellow abstract expressionist, Robert Motherwell .

Owning artworks by an artist like Frankenthaler can offer collectors opportunities for exhibition. Museums, galleries, and other art institutions often seek to showcase pieces by artists of Frankenthaler's calibre, providing collectors with the chance to share their collection with a broader audience and contribute to the cultural art historical dialogue.

Tips for Building a Helen Frankenthaler Print Collection

Thorough research is one of the primary steps in art collecting. Considering Frankenthaler's exploration of diverse printmaking techniques such as woodcut prints, lithography, and screenprinting, it becomes crucial to delve into her expansive print portfolio. Lithography stands out as Frankenthaler's initial foray into printmaking, exemplified by First Stone (1961). Despite lacking formal training, she employed her fingers, brushes, and crayon washes to cultivate a gestural style reminiscent of her soak-stained paintings. Her active artistic engagement spanned from the 1950s to the 2000s, emphasising the importance of exploring the different periods of her print work to grasp the diversity and uniqueness inherent in her prints.

Another crucial aspect is determining your budget. Establishing a clear budget range aligned with your financial capacity and investment goals enables informed decision-making and ensures a comfortable commitment to building your collection. Additionally, consider where to make purchases. While auction sales can be alluring and dramatic, the competitive bidding environment may drive prices beyond your budget, and only select prints may come to auction. Private sales offer greater control and personalised interactions with experts, unavailable in auction settings. Referencing our guide on Auction versus Private sale can provide better insights into the differences in buying avenues.

Authenticity and provenance hold paramount importance in the art world. When acquiring prints, ensure proper authentication and documentation. Scrutinise signatures for authenticity and verify edition sizes and numbers. Prefer prints signed and numbered by Frankenthaler herself or authenticated by reputable print studios or the artist's estate. Provenance, documenting the artwork's ownership history, not only adds value but also guarantees its legitimacy.

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.

MyArtBroker’s Trading Floor Platform. A computer monitor with screens showing data on the prints market. Trading Floor © MyArtBroker 2023

Why Use MyArtBroker to Find Your First Helen Frankenthaler?

A Dedicated Broker

MyArtBroker delivers a unique service that connects you with your own personal broker who will guide you through a secure transaction. Your broker will assist you with authenticity and provide advice on realistic sale prices, determine the optimal time to sell, and negotiate the best deals on your behalf from start to finish.

Our Network

Our Trading Floor is a highly valuable and sought-after platform that has revolutionised the way art investors and enthusiasts buy and sell artwork. Providing real time market data, its value lies in its convenience, accessibility, and the level of transparency and security it provides to over tens of thousands of users.

MyArtBroker’s MyPortfolio. A smartphone showing data on the prints market. MyPortfolio © MyArtBroker 2023

Collecting Helen Frankenthaler Prints with MyArtBroker

MyArtBroker is a trusted platform that works directly with collectors to source authentic and verified artworks, offering a reliable and trustworthy way to purchase art with confidence. With a team of experienced art experts, we provide guidance and support throughout the purchasing process, from selecting the right artwork to negotiating the sale and arranging for delivery.

We’ve leveraged our market intelligence to provide collectors with resources like My Portfolio, the only print market index that puts data-driven technology in the hands of investors. It’s easier than ever to track the value of your art investments and make informed decisions through our Trading Floor.

Helena Poole

Helena Poole, Specialist[email protected]

Interested in buying or selling
Helen Frankenthaler?

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Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler

33 works

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