Helen Frankenthaler, an abstract painter known for her bold, lyrical use of color who led a postwar art movement that would later be termed Color Field painting, died on Tuesday (Dec. 27, 2011) at her home in Darien, Conn., after a long illness, nephew Clifford Ross said. She was 83.
One of Ms. Frankenthaler's most famous works is Mountains and Sea, a 1952 painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which she created by pouring thinned paint directly onto raw, unprimed canvas laid on the studio floor.
Her abstract style helped American art make the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting and influenced such artists as Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland.
She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2002. From 1985 to 1992, she served on the National Council on the Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ms. Frankenthaler was only 23 when she created Mountains and Sea, building on Jackson Pollock's abstract technique.
She went on to develop a highly personal painterly manner within the abstract expressionist movement. She worked in a wide range of media in addition to paintings on canvas and paper, including ceramics, sculpture, woodcuts, tapestry and printmaking.