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Artists Joan Mitchell
Joan Mitchell Photo

Joan Mitchell

American Painter and Printmaker

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: February 12, 1925 - Chicago, Illinois

Died: October 30, 1992 - Vetheuil, France

Joan Mitchell Timeline


"My paintings are titled after they are finished. I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me - and remembered feelings of them, which of course become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would more like to paint what it leaves with me."
Joan Mitchell
"The painting is just a surface to be covered. Paintings aren't about the person who makes them, either. My paintings have to do with feeling, yet it's pretentious to say they're about feelings, too, because if you don't get it across, it's nothing."
Joan Mitchell
"Abstract is not a style. I simply want to make a surface work. This is just a use of space and form: it's an ambivalence of forms and space."
Joan Mitchell
"People will never understand what we are doing if they can't feel. All art is abstract. All music is abstract. But it's all real... We were all trying to bring that spirit, that spontaneous energy, into our work."
Joan Mitchell
"I want to paint the feeling of a space. It might be an enclosed space, it might be a vast space. It might be an object working with Hans Hofmann's phrase "push and pull," the structure, the light, the space, the color."
Joan Mitchell

"Abstract is not a style. I simply want to make a surface work. This is just a use of space and form: it's an ambivalence of forms and space."

Joan Mitchell Signature


Joan Mitchell is known for the compositional rhythms, bold coloration, and sweeping gestural brushstrokes of her large and often multi-paneled paintings. Inspired by landscape, nature, and poetry, her intent was not to create a recognizable image, but to convey emotions. Mitchell's early success in the 1950s was striking at a time when few women artists were recognized. She referred to herself as the "last Abstract Expressionist," and she continued to create abstract paintings until her death in 1992.

Key Ideas

Inspired by the gestural painting of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell's mature work comprised a highly abstract, richly colored, calligraphic manner, which balanced elements of structured composition with a mood of wild improvisation.
Mitchell rejected the emphasis on flatness and the "all-over" approach to composition that were prevalent among many of the leading Abstract Expressionists. Instead, she preferred to retain a more traditional sense of figure and ground in her pictures, and she often composed them in ways that evoked impressions of landscape.
Mitchell's abrasive personality has been a key factor in interpretations of her painting, which critics often read as expressions of rage and violence. Yet, almost as often, they have seen lyricism in her work.


Joan Mitchell Photo


From an early age, Joan Mitchell showed an interest and love of painting, art, and poetry. She grew up comfortably in Chicago as the younger of two girls. Her mother, a poet, writer, and editor, sparked her lifelong interest in poetry. Her father, a successful doctor, would often take her to the Art Institute of Chicago and other museums.

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Joan Mitchell Biography Continues

Important Art by Joan Mitchell

The below artworks are the most important by Joan Mitchell - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Untitled (1951)

Untitled (1951)

Artwork description & Analysis: Untitled (1951) was one of the seminal works in Joan Mitchell's first solo exhibition at The New Gallery in New York City in 1952. Paul Brach's review announced, "The debut of this young painter marks the appearance of a new personality in abstract painting. Miss Mitchell's huge canvases are post-Cubist in their precise articulation of spatial intervals, yet they remain close in spirit to American Abstract Expressionism in their explosive impact."

Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 72 x 78 inches. © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation - Estate of Joan Mitchell

City Landscape (1955)

City Landscape (1955)

Artwork description & Analysis: Informed by an urban energy, City Landscape is an iconic example of Mitchell's early work. The tension between the horizontal brushstrokes of vibrant color in the center with the surrounding whites exemplifies her use of the figure-ground relationship. The work also demonstrates her debt to Philip Guston, whose Abstract Expressionist work was often likened to Impressionism.

Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 80 x 80 inches. © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation - The Art Institute of Chicago

Hemlock (1956)

Hemlock (1956)

Artwork description & Analysis: Mitchell's paintings are striking in their sheer physicality. She used bold and active strokes of paint on large canvases. In Hemlock, her use of cool whites interplays with the horizontal lines of green and black and gives the sense of an evergreen in the winter.

Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 91 x 80 inches. © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation - Whitney Museum of American Art

More Joan Mitchell Artwork and Analysis:

Tilleul (1978) La Grande Vallee XIV (For a Little While) (1983) Bracket (1989)

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Joan Mitchell
Interactive chart with Joan Mitchell's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Arshile GorkyArshile Gorky
Philip GustonPhilip Guston

Personal Contacts

Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Franz KlineFranz Kline
Frank O'HaraFrank O'Hara
Jean-Paul RiopelleJean-Paul Riopelle


Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Influences on Artist
Joan Mitchell
Joan Mitchell
Years Worked: 1947 - 1992
Influenced by Artist


Joan SnyderJoan Snyder
Pat SteirPat Steir
Philip WoffordPhilip Wofford

Personal Contacts

Edward ClarkEdward Clark


Post-Painterly AbstractionPost-Painterly Abstraction
Lyrical AbstractionLyrical Abstraction

Useful Resources on Joan Mitchell






The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter Recomended resource

By Patricia Albers

The Paintings of Joan Mitchell Recomended resource

By Jane Livingston, Linda Nochlin, Yvette Lee

Joan Mitchell

By Klaus Kertess

Joan Mitchell

By Nils Ohlsen, Joan Mitchell

More Interesting Books about Joan Mitchell
Joan Mitchell Foundation Recomended resource

Official Artist Website

Artnet: Joan Mitchell Catalogue

Provides Bibliographical Information and a List of Works by the Artist

Hauser & Wirth: Joan Mitchell Exhibitions

Features Information and Image Galleries from the Exhibitions "The Last Paintings," "Sunflowers," and "Leaving America"

Gagosian Gallery: Joan Mitchell: The Last Decade

Includes Exhibition Materials and Image Gallery from the 2010 Exhibition

Joan Mitchell, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Recomended resource

By Brenda Richardson
September 2002

Mitchell Paints a Picture Recomended resource

By Arthur C. Danto
The Nation
August 29, 2002

Expatriate Mitchell Tapped Into France When Action Was Here

By Hilton Kramer
The New York Observer
July 29, 2002

Tough Love: Resurrecting Joan Mitchell

By Peter Schjeldahl
The New Yorker
July 15, 2002

More Interesting Articles about Joan Mitchell


Joan Mitchell Oral History Interview

Conducted by Linda Nochlin


Joan Mitchell: Portrait of an Abstract Painter

Directed by Marion Cajori, 1992

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
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