Abstract Expressionist painter and printmaker Joan Mitchell was one of the principle figures of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists that emerged from New York in the 1950s. Her work features in the collections of the United States' major modern art museums including New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York, and also in other important institutions such as Tate in London. Distinct from her predominantly male counterparts, the artist developed her own signature rhythmic gestural style and synesthetic use of colour to evoke emotion and memory.Read More
Born in Chicago, Mitchell moved to New York in 1949 after spending a year in France on the James Nelson Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she had graduated with a BFA in 1947 and would go on to graduate with an MFA in 1950. Inspired by her time in France to move toward abstraction in her work, she quickly became an active participant in the avantgarde art scene of downtown New York, her artwork admired by the likes of Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Hans Hofmann. In 1951 she became one of the few women to be included in The Club, an exclusive gathering place on East Eighth Street for the artists who would become the basis of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. She was included in The Ninth Street Show (1951, New York), which was curated by Leo Castelli and also featured Robert Motherwell, de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Hofmann, and Helen Frankenthaler.
In developing her technique, Mitchell was not specifically interested in the style of abstraction but rather in making a 'surface work', prioritising the texture of the canvas and the emotional evocation of abstract forms. Her technique combined contrasting methods of dripped liquid and densely applied paint, and both areas of flatness and relief. Initially, her focus was on developing her own style of gesture and line, creating a rhythm of contrasting and conflicting lines with a balance of order and disorder, as visible in artworks such as Untitled (1955). She soon began to introduce more in-depth layered fields of luminous colour that she would build up through dense lines in works such as Ladybug (1957) and Goulphar II (1959). Though appearing unrestrained everything is carefully arranged, with the artist attentive to the layering of paint and the relationship between colours and textures. As the artist explained 'the freedom in my work is quite controlled. I don't close my eyes and hope for the best.' The artist's impact was in how her canvases created moods, typically in response to nature and more specifically the impression it leaves.
Already splitting her time between Paris and New York since 1955, Mitchell fully moved to Paris in 1959. The period between 1960 and 1964 saw a change in her style, marked by her father's death and her mother's cancer diagnosis. The brush strokes became more violent and the colours more sombre. In large multi-panel works such as Untitled (1964), her form became more singular and dense. In 1968, the artist settled in the heartland of French modernism (near Claude Monet's former estate): Vétheuil, a small village northwest of Paris. There, while continuing to paint and maintaining an international presence, she started to regularly host artists at various stages of their careers, providing space and support toward the development of their art.
In 2002, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented a posthumous retrospective of Mitchell's work.
Biography by Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019
Auction cash cows Jean-Michel Basquiat and Zao Wou-ki underperformed as collectors chased up-and-coming young artists.
No other work came close, but sales in the six-figure range were strong.
The American painter sold well during her lifetime, but it's only in recent years that her prices have begun to catch up to those of her peers.
Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips and Bonham's have changed what they're selling and how they're selling it for major auctions taking place over the next two weeks.
The artist is finally receiving the recognition she deserves.
The Ocula Advisory team select their picks from Art Basel Hong Kong, running between 21 and 23 May 2021, with preview days on 19 and 20 May 2021.
The career of Joan Mitchell, who once likened Clement Greenberg to a 'toilet seat,' ought to remind us of how tribal the art world continues to be. There are those who want to belong to clubs and acqu
The American abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell rose to prominence during the second half of the 20 th century; she was known for her large-scale canvas works, an outpouring of exuberant br
Surface Work, a survey show of women abstract artists across Victoria Miro’s Mayfair and Wharf Road galleries, reveals an alternative history of how much women have already achieved. From the examp
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