Daily Pic: “Nature Abhors a Vacuum,” a picture now in the National Gallery in Washington that was painted in 1973 by Helen Frankenthaler, who died yesterday at 83. In 1952, Frankenthaler developed a staining technique that washed her canvases in patches of pale color. It was crucial in launching the later movement known as Post-Painterly Abstraction, which included major figures such Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. Googling-up a pile of Frankenthaler’s images, I was reminded of what a daring artist she was: She avoided a pat, coherent style (such as even artists like Rothko and Stella could descend into) and often made pictures that are weird and can seem almost random and uncomposed. That deliberate, difficult awkwardness may be one reason she never made it quite as big as her more stylish male peers. Another may have been simply that they were male and she wasn’t. A third is that washes of pale color, put on in gently troubled biomorphs, are likely to be read as “feminine,” which might still count against them in a culture that favors heroic, rather than heroine-ic, artistic gestures. (Although there are hints of Frankenthaler hanging on in contemporary painters as diverse as Peter Doig and Monique Prieto.) Maybe Frankenthaler’s passing will prod some curator, somewhere, to mount a retrospective that will let us get a new idea of where she stands. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, © Helen Frankenthaler.