As a second generation Abstract Expressionist, Frankenthaler was strongly influenced by the work of Gorky, Pollack and de Kooning. Prior to her studies at Bennington College, she studied with the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo. Later, she briefly studied with Hans Hofmann, who also taught scores of Abstract Expressionism’s leading exponents.
Early in her career she developed the stain painting technique, which became a catalyst for a generation of color field painters. She was the first American painter after Jackson Pollack, to see the benefits of the color staining of raw canvas in creating an integration of color and ground so that the foreground and background no longer exist. Although Frankenthaler's work is abstract, a strong suggestion of landscape is often apparent. In 1989, she told the New York Times, “What concerns me when I work, is not whether the picture is a landscape, or whether it’s pastoral, or whether somebody will see a sunset in it. What concerns me is — did I make a beautiful picture?’’
Frankenthaler made her first prints in 1960 and while critics have suggested that her woodcuts were her most original contribution to printmaking, she is known for her inventive lithographs, etchings and screen prints as well. The stain technique that she made famous is evident in her entire oeuvre.
In addition to a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 1960, Frankenthaler was the subject of major exhibitions at the Whitney Museum in 1969 and the Museum of Modern Art in 1989. In 1993, the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., exhibited a survey focused solely on her prints. A catalogue raisonne of her graphic works from 1961 through 1996 was published in 1996.