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On display on Level 2


United States of America 1928 – 2011

Other generations 1957 Place made: New York, United States of America
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed and dated lower right, red oil, "Frankenthaler/ '57"
Dimensions: 174.7 h x 177.9 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1973
Accession No: NGA 73.330
Image rights: © Helen Frankenthaler
  • the artist;
  • from whom bought through André Emmerich Gallery Inc., New York, by the Acquisitions Committee of the Australian National Gallery, March 1973

Other generations is painted on unprimed canvas using diluted oil paint, the 'staining' technique that Frankenthaler adopted and developed after 1952 inspired bythe paintings of Jackson Pollock (1912-56). In a statement published in 1957, the year she painted Other generations, Frankenthaler described her approach:

I often start a canvas on the floor (stretched or unstretched) then work on it on the wall … from different sides I use sized and primed canvas or unsized cotton duck. My medium is a combination of turpentine, tube paint and enamel. I use brushes or a palette knife but I often shake or toss the paint off the brush-rather than apply it - or use my shoe or hand, controlling and changing the accidental with specific ideas.1

Other generations is one of a series of paintings from the autumn of 1957 that can bedistinguished from the dense Expressionist landscapes of 1955 and 1956 by their larger scale, open composition, and gestural freedom. Vestigial images seem to surface in a number of these later paintings, for example, Nude (collection of the artist) and Jacobs ladder (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Hyam N. Glickstein). In the Gallery's painting a female torso appears to materialise in the upper centre of the painting, and to a suggestion that this image may have prompted the title Other generations the artist replied:

Titles are a problem! I often fear that they are used too easily as a 'handle'; leading to an emphasis on the literary and/or subjective interpretation in lieu of an aesthetic one …: in the case of Other Generations I myself would tend to minimise yet recognise your 'association with a full female torso'. One might project or decipher some kind of figure-shape(s). More important, different carefully-placed, various-sized colourshapes seem to 'spawn' or regenerate each other on the canvas surface; coloured lines and forms, working in 'negative/positive relationship, that create space'.2

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.290.

  1. Helen Frankenthaler,'New Talent in the U.S.: Helen Frankenthaler, Art in America, vol. 45, no. 1, March 1957, pp.10-47, p.29.
  2. Helen Frankenthaler, correspondence with the Gallery, 29 November 1988.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra