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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: The artist; [Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis]; acquired from the above by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, 1973; Friday Foundation, Seattle, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


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. 22 - Oct. 14, 1973. Cat. no. 22, pp. 67-70, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Art in America: Washington Collections—Color, Color, Color: American Painting, Jan. 26 - Mar. 7, 1982.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 9, pp. 22-23, reproduced.

Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Art Museum, What Is Real? American Art 1960 to 1975, Mar. 19 - June 19, 1994.

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

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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