As the youngest child of a New York State Supreme Court justice, Helen Frankenthaler attended private schools in New York City before studying art with the Cubist painter Paul Feeley at Bennington College in Vermont. She continued her studies with Hans Hofmann at the Art Students' League in New York and emerged as a Modernist painter around 1950, just as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were creating and showing some of the great works of the Abstract Expressionist style. Influenced by their ambition, scale, color and intensity, Frankenthaler began to develop those elements in her own work.
Her hallmark style, called stain or Color-Field painting, consists of pouring paint over an unprimed surface that allows the color to soak into the canvas support. This identity of color, paint and surface, so important in Modernist painting, gave Frankenthaler's paintings a provocative and forceful visual edge and influenced a whole new generation of painters, especially Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. She has had solo and retrospective shows at the Whitney, Guggenheim and The Museum of Modern Art, New York and has taught drawing and painting at various stages of her career at Hunter College, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and Princeton.