Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Dawn Shapes

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

Dawn Shapes


Helen Frankenthaler

American, 1928 - 2011

Younger than the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters, Frankenthaler was singled out by painter Adolph Gottlieb to be included in a 1950 group show that started her on a stellar trajectory. Inspired by the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, she reflected, “I’ve been touched, in the work of [Joan] Miró and [Jackson] Pollock, by a Surrealist—by Surrealist I mean ‘associative’—quality.” Frankenthaler made her mark with her liquid-stained canvases, which served as inspiration for many others. Her evocative titles and floating forms, achieved by thinning paint, have the associative power she admired in Miró and Pollock. Dawn Shapes is a soaring work from a key period of her career, illustrating her encouragement to others: “Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”
Acrylic on canvas
77 1/4 x 94 1/2 in. (196 x 240 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: The artist; [Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota, by 1972 until 1973]; purchased from gallery by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1973; Friday Foundation, Seattle, Washington, 2018; to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 2020
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. 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, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection, Oct. 15, 2021 - Nov. 27, 2022. Text by Elizabeth A. T. Smith. No cat. no., pp. 15-16, 44, 152-157, 186, reproduced pp. 16 (fig. 5), 153 (pl. 16), 183.

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.

Learn more about Equity at SAM