The art world recently suffered the loss of two pioneering women, each one a legend in her respective field. All of us at Leslie Saul & Associates were sorry to hear of the deaths of ceramic artist and designer Eva Zeisel, who died on December 30th, and abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler, who died on December 27th.
Zeisel revolutionized dinnerware with her elegant designs. She considered much of modernist design overly cold, and strove to incorporate humor and life into her minimalist aesthetic, later writing that, “the clean lines of modern design could be successfully combined with sensuous, classic shapes.” This profile piece in the New York Times quotes MOMA architecture and design curator Paola Antonelli, who says of the designer,
She brought form to the organicism and elegance and fluidity that we expect of ceramics today, reaching as many people as possible…It’s easy to do something stunning that stays in a collector’s cabinet. But her designs reached people at the table, where they gather.
Frankenthaler was known primarily for her abstract paintings, but was also notable for her printmaking efforts, especially her woodcuts, which broke new ground and continue to inspire artists today. She was a pioneer of the color field method of painting, pouring turpentine-thinned paint onto raw canvas in thin washes, thereby staining the fabric itself. Says the Times,
Her staining method emphasized the flat surface over illusory depth, and it called attention to the very nature of paint on canvas…It also brought a new, open airiness to the painted surface and was credited with releasing color from the gestural approach and romantic rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism.
Art critic Barbara Rose wrote in 1972 that Frankenthaler displayed a gift for “the freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind, but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.”
Both of these visionary artists will be greatly missed.