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Helen Frankenthaler “Postcardisms”

Helen Frankenthaler in her studio in front of Swan Lake Series (in progress) at East 83rd St. and Third Ave., New York, 1961. Helen Frankenthaler papers, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, New York. Photographer: Cora Kelley Ward.


Painter Helen Frankenthaler was known for her personal and spirited postcard correspondence with family and friends, described by her as “postcardisms.” Found in the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives is a volley of incoming and outgoing postcards between Frankenthaler and Jock Truman, Betty Parsons Gallery Director from 1961 – 1974, written between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s, which document their light-hearted and personal exchanges.

While Frankenthaler often sent postcards to Truman picturing buildings or cityscapes, he preferred vintage postcards from the turn of the century. Along with a group of vintage leather postcards, he sent a note reading: “Dear Favorite Painter: Good luck, love & kisses, an admirer, ’66 Truman.”

Delighted by the leather postcards, Frankenthaler responded with an update on life at her home on East 94th Street:

June 1st [1967]. Jock dear – How’s this for openers? Thank you for your face in the crowd yesterday. Right now, it’s 8 a.m. and I’ve just watered new shrubs in the garden and am having my “Special K” while the new poodle “Martell” lies at my feet with a bone. (Hardly a scene for the Divine Sarah).* But spring! And soon to my Provincetown studio, and the Bay. I tremble at the thought of your leather card. love x – Helen.

Generally, we send postcards while on vacation or away from home, but on these occasions, both Frankenthaler and Truman were writing from New York, enjoying staying in touch via postcardisms.

* Sarah Bernhardt, silent movie actress, pictured on the opposite side of the postcard.


Leather postcards from Jock Truman to Helen Frankenthaler, 1966. Helen Frankenthaler papers, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, New York.


Postcard from Helen Frankenthaler to Jock Truman, June 1, 1967. Helen Frankenthaler papers, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Archives, New York. Postcard text by Helen Frankenthaler © 2016 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc.


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The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2016

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