DETAIL: Helen FRANKENTHALER Freefall 1993 colour woodcut Purchased with the assistance of the Orde Poynton Fund 2002

VIEW BY GALLERY : Helen Frankenthaler | Collaboration | Freefall | Essence mulberry | Tales of Genji | Madame Butterfly |

Madame Butterfly

In Frankenthaler’s most recent woodcut, the spectacular triptych Madame Butterfly, we see Frankenthaler’s spontaneous soak-stain painting technique realised in the most graphic of print media.

The 46 woodblocks used to print Madame Butterfly were carved by Frankenthaler and Yasuyuki Shibata, a master Japanese woodblock maker. Frankenthaler marked the wood using what she calls her ‘guzzying’ technique, a technique involving scratching the wood with items such as sandpaper and dental tools. She was determined in this way to ensure that her unique sensibility was evident in every aspect of the print’s creation.

The resulting work is one of exceptional beauty. With Madame Butterfly, Frankenthaler has succeeded in her attempt to capture a sense of spontaneity in a print so painterly in its delicate washes of colour and transient floating forms that it resembles a watercolour.

Frankenthaler has extended printmaking techniques and the boundaries of print collaboration to bring her unique and identifiable style to bear upon the woodcut. Madame Butterfly is a print that has transformed the possibilities of the woodcut medium.

Animation of printing sequence
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Download and view the narrated sequence  4.8MB PDF

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