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(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
Joan MitchellUNTITLED, 1964Oil on canvas
115.9 x 88.9 cm
Cheim & Read Contact Gallery
Trees by Joan Mitchell contemporary artwork
Joan MitchellTrees, 1992Lithographie
76.3 x 56.5 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Contact Gallery
Composition by Joan Mitchell contemporary artwork
Joan MitchellComposition, 1969Oil on canvas
195 x 130 cm
Sold
Hauser & Wirth

Joan Mitchell Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, At Dawn at Cheim & Read, New York
Open Now
10 September–3 October 2020 Group Exhibition At Dawn Cheim & Read, New YorkNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Do You Think It Needs a Cloud? at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York
Open Now
10 September–10 October 2020 Group Exhibition Do You Think It Needs a Cloud? Miles McEnery Gallery, 511 W 22nd St, New York511 W 22nd Street
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Group Show East Hampton at Pace Gallery, New York
Closed
22 July–2 August 2020 Group Show Group Show East Hampton East Hampton, 68 Park PlaceNew York

Joan Mitchell Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong
Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul

Joan Mitchell In Ocula Magazine

Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell Ocula News Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell New York, 1 July 2020

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.

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How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales Ocula News How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales New York, 25 June 2020

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.

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Galleries Augment Basel Online With Clicks-and-Mortar Exhibitions Ocula News Galleries Augment Basel Online With Clicks-and-Mortar Exhibitions Berlin, 16 June 2020

In Berlin, where the pandemic permits, digital viewing rooms are being remade offline. Elsewhere, galleries are mounting ever richer online presentations.

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Joan Mitchell In Related Press

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The Joan Mitchell You’ve Never Seen Related Press The Joan Mitchell You’ve Never Seen 23 June 2019, Hyperallergic

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 acquire the proper affiliations, and there are others who don't or can't belong to anything of the sort, even the cliques that would gladly welcome them....

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The Charming Letters of One of America’s Painting Legends Related Press The Charming Letters of One of America’s Painting Legends 3 May 2019, WSJ Magazine

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 brushstrokes and blazing colour. Mitchell was one of the rare women artists of her time to achieve the same level of acclaim as her male...

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An alternative history of abstract art Related Press An alternative history of abstract art 25 May 2018, Apollo Magazine

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 examples of the more than 50 artists in this show–some relatively unknown and others household names–it is obvious that women approached abstraction with...

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Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show Related Press Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show 15 April 2018, The Guardian

There are certain shows that change one's sense of art. Surface Work is one of them. Spread across two sites, it is nothing less than an anthology of abstract painting spanning an entire century, from early constructivism to post-digital sampling, in which every work holds its own and every work is by a woman. This is a rare and historic event....

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Joan Mitchell In Video & Audio

Joan Mitchell, Composition, 1969 Related Video & Audio Joan Mitchell, Composition, 1969 4 June 2018, Hauser & Wirth

'Sunflowers are something I feel very intensely. They look so wonderful when they are young and they are so very moving when they are dying.’ – Joan Mitchell Florence Derieux, Director of Exhibitions, introduces this stunning example from Mitchell’s acclaimed Sunflower series included in Hauser & Wirth’s presentation at Art Basel. At once...

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