(1925 – 1992), USA

Joan Mitchell Biography

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.

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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

Joan Mitchell Featured Artworks

Untitled by Joan Mitchell contemporary artwork painting
Joan Mitchell Untitled, c. 1956 Oil on canvas laid down on linen
40 x 48.9 cm
LGDR Enquire
Untitled by Joan Mitchell contemporary artwork painting
Joan Mitchell Untitled, 1976 Oil on canvas
75.2 x 150.8 cm
LGDR Enquire
Trees by Joan Mitchell contemporary artwork print
Joan Mitchell Trees, 1992 Lithographie
76.3 x 56.5 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Contact Gallery
Composition by Joan Mitchell contemporary artwork painting
Joan Mitchell Composition, 1969 Oil on canvas
195 x 130 cm
Hauser & Wirth

Joan Mitchell Recent Exhibitions

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Joan Mitchell Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris
Galerie Max Hetzler contemporary art gallery in Bleibtreustraße 45, Berlin, Germany Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin, London, Paris
Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul

Joan Mitchell In Ocula Magazine

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In Ocula Advisory

Joan Mitchell In Related Press

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Joan Mitchell In Video & Audio

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