Mother Goose Melody (Primary Title)

Helen Frankenthaler, American, 1928 - 2011 (Artist)

Oil on canvas
United States
Unframed: 81 3/4 × 103 1/2 in. (207.65 × 262.89 cm)
Framed: 82 × 104 in. (208.28 × 264.16 cm)

The painter makes something magical, spatial, and alive on a surface that is flat and with materials that are inert. That magic is what makes a painting unique and necessary. Painting, in many ways, is a glorious illusion. —Helen Frankenthaler

In Mother Goose Melody, Frankenthaler combines the gestural splashes and drips of Abstract Expressionist painting with the innovative stained-canvas technique she helped pioneer in 1952. The array of colors, shapes, and lines makes this composition rhythmic and dynamic. The spiraling red form on the right counters the dense area of color on the left, while the broad yellow band stretching across the bottom unites both. The artist noted that the three brown shapes could refer to herself and her two sisters, and that the red and black lines “made a sort of stork figure—the whole thing had a nursery-rhyme feeling.”

Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis
Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler, 1950 - 1959, Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY, March 9 - April 13, 2013

After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler, 1956 - 1959, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, January 16 - May 3, 1998; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, June 6 - October 4, 1998; Guggenheim Museum, Berlin, Germany, October 14, 1998 - January 31, 1999

Helen Frankenthaler: A Paintings Retrospective," The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, May 24 – August 24, 1989; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX, November 19, 1989 – January 7, 1990; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, February 8 – March 22, 1990; Detroit Institute of Art, May – September 2, 1990

Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art, 1945 - 1986, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, December 10, 1986 – January 10, 1988

Andrew Wyeth: A Trojan Horse Modernist, Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC, March 9 - April 15, 1984

Frankenthaler: The 1950s, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, May 10 - June 28, 1981

Art in America Show, Decorative Arts Center, New York, NY, 1961
Siegel, Katy, ed. “The heroine Paint”: After Frankenthaler. New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2015. (Pp. 100-101).

Elderfield, John, et al. Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959. New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2013. (Pp. 134-135).

Ravenal, John B. Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007. (Pp. 12-13).

Rowley, Alison. Helen Frankenthaler: Painting History, Writing Painting. London: I.B. Taurus, 2007. (Pp. 123-124).

Pollock, Griselda and Vanessa Corby, ed. Encountering Eva Hesse. London: Prestel Publishing, 2006. (No. 44, pp. 144-151).

Marlow, Tim. “Making a Message, Giving a Message.” The Art Newspaper, no. 104 (June 2000). (Pp. 36-37).

The American Art Book. London: Phaidon Press, 1999. (P. 152).

Artchart Poster Series: Know the Artist Teacher’s Guide: Set 2. Aspen, CO & Glenview IL: Chrystal Productions, 1999. (Poster; p. 6).

After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler, 1956-1959. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1998. (Pp. 18, 82, 92, 93, cat. no. 15, p. 83, cover).

Design Principles. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994.

Brandt, Frederick. "Twentieth Century Visions." Antiques, VMFA issue (August 1990). (P. 312).

Elderfield, John. "After a 'Breakthrough'." MoMa Members Quarterly 2, no. 1 (Summer 1989). (P. 11).

Larson, Kay. “News from Nowhere.” New York, June 26, 1989. (P. 58).

Carmean, Jr., E.A. Helen Frankenthaler: A Paintings Retrospective. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989. (No. 7, p. 26-27).

Brandt, Frederick R. Late 20th Century Art. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1985. (No. 31, p. 66-67).

Brandt, Frederick R. "Building a Collection for the 20th Century: The Sydney and Frances Lewis Collection of Late 20th Century American Art." Apollo (December 1985). (No. 8, pp. 484 – 487).

Styron, Tom. Andrew Wyeth: A Trojan Horse Modernist. Greenville, SC: Greenville County Museum of Art, 1984. (P. 17).

Elderfield, John. “Specific Incidents.” Art in America (February 1982): 100-106. (P. 104).

Belz, Carl. Frankenthaler: The 1950s. Waltham, MA: Rose Art Museum, 1981. (No. 52).

Rose, Barbara. Helen Frankenthaler. New York: Abrams, 1970.

Gray, Cleve. “The Art in America Show.” Art in America 49, no. 4 (1961): 94-97. (P. 97).
(Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York) by 1980; Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Sydney and Frances Lewis, Richmond, Virginia in December of 1980; Gift to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in December of 1985.
©artist or artist’s estate

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