In Defense of the Dead Helen Frankenthaler


I’ve been holding back for a year and 27 days, but now I must speak. Grace Glueck, in her New York Times obituary for Helen Frankenthaler, subtitled "Abstract Painter Who Shaped a Movement, Dies at 83," includes these lines:


Critics have not unanimously praised Ms. Frankenthaler’s art. Some have seen it as thin in substance, uncontrolled in method, too sweet in color and too "poetic."


First of all, too poetic? Or rather "poetic"? Was John Greenleaf Whittier too "poetic" when he wrote:


As night drew on, and, from the crest

Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,

The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank

From sight beneath the smothering bank,

We piled, with care, our nightly stack

Of wood against the chimney-back,–

The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,

And on its top the stout back-stick;

The knotty forestick laid apart,

And filled between with curious art…


(in "Snow-Bound")? But moreover, since when do searing critical attacks appear in obituaries? I didn’t notice one in de Kooning’s! Or are they reserved for women? I demand a retraction from the Times!