Helen Frankenthaler was an Abstract Expressionist painter whose career spanned six decades. After graduating from Bennington College in Vermont (1949), she studied at the Art Students League in New York, took art history courses at Columbia University, and studied painting with the Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann (1880–1966). Her first solo show was held at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, in 1951. Through her friendship with art critic Clement Greenberg (1909–1994) she met many leading artists of the New York School. Frankenthaler achieved her breakthrough with her painting Mountains and Sea (1952), which featured her new soak-stain technique, using thinned oil paint on untreated canvas. While the canvas and the paint became one, the color functioned as both coloring and drawing, resulting in abstract, colorful, calligraphic large-scale paintings. Her painting style proved highly influential in the upcoming Color Field painting of the 1960s. Frankenthaler was also active in sculpting, ceramics, set design, and printmaking (especially woodcuts). In 1958 she married artist Robert Motherwell (1915–1991). Her first retrospective was held at the Jewish Museum in New York (1960). She taught at several renowned universities and earned many prizes and awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 2001.