There was always more subject matter in abstract painting than artists were willing to admit. The title may have been an allusion to a work by the 18th century French philosopher Voltaire. Frankenthaler used the three primary colors; then white was layered over them in a series of ..gestures.
Her precociousness was well known; at twenty-three Frankenthaler was already able to command the controlled freedom (yes!) which became her trademark.
Her color field paintings with their stains and washes of color are always less monochromatic than they appear at first glance. She usually laid the paint on heavily at first and then washed over with water. Marks, spatters and a wide variety of technical means. At least once, in 1976, she employed a window cleaning blade on a long handle to get the effect she was after. A number of Frankenthaler's works have elements of overt subject matter in them. Of Faerie Tale painted in 1976 she remarked matter-of-factly that is was a painting of a window but then added, "I don't know whether I meant or just this second projected that image."
In response to the strictly gendered stereotypes of the 1950s, Frankenthaler held herself aloof with the press. "There are three subjects I don't like discussing: my former marriage, women artists, and what I think of my contemporaries." Fortunately, Frankenthaler lived to see better days and greater appreciation of her work, living until at age eighty-two, she died in 2011.
Image: Helen Frankenthaler - Stella Polaris, 1990, acrylic on canvas, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, NYC.