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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Dawn Shapes

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

Dawn Shapes


Helen Frankenthaler

American, 1928 - 2011

Painted at a highly productive time in Helen Frankenthaler’s career, the large-scale Dawn Shapes is a dramatic color field painting, a painterly direction she pioneered. Created on the floor with thinned acrylic paint, it is considered a “classic” example of her soak stain technique. While her paintings in the 1950s are more strongly defined by linear designs, a dramatic change occurred in the early 1960s when Frankenthaler covered large parts of the canvas in bold forms. Compositionally related to several 1964 paintings with framed bands of contrasting colors around the edge of the canvas, Dawn Shapes exemplifies the spatial tension between pools of contrasting color and their relationship with areas of unprimed canvas.
Acrylic on canvas
77 1/4 × 94 1/2 in. (196 × 240 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: [Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota]; purchased from gallery by Jane and Richard Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1973
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryMontreal, Québec, Galerie Godard Lefort, Helen Frankenthaler, Feb. 13 - Mar. 4, 1971.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Locksley Shea Gallery, Helen Frankenthaler, Jan. 15 -Feb. 3, 1972.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, American Art: Third Quarter Century, Aug. 23 - Oct. 14, 1973.

Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Text by Bruce Guenther and Barbara Johns. Cat. no. 9, pp. 22-23.

Pullman, Washington, Washington State University, Museum of Art, Art & Context: The '50s and '60s, Sept. 29 - Dec. 16, 2006. Text by Chris Bruce, et al. No cat. no., p. 68, reproduced p. 69.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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