Ways to support us
About The Art Story a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Org
Joan Mitchell Photo

Joan Mitchell

American Painter and Printmaker

Born: February 12, 1925 - Chicago, Illinois
Died: October 30, 1992 - Vetheuil, France
Movements and Styles:
Abstract Expressionism
,
Action Painting
"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."
1 of 6
Joan Mitchell Signature
"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."
2 of 6
Joan Mitchell Signature
"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."
3 of 6
Joan Mitchell Signature
"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."
4 of 6
Joan Mitchell Signature
"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."
5 of 6
Joan Mitchell Signature
"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."
6 of 6
Joan Mitchell Signature

Summary of Joan Mitchell

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.

Accomplishments

  • 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.

Biography of Joan Mitchell

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.



Progression of Art

Untitled (1951)
1951

Untitled

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)
1955

City Landscape

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)
1956

Hemlock

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

Tilleul (1978)
1978

Tilleul

Tilleul is one of Mitchell's most direct examples of landscape abstractions. In French, telleul is a linden tree, and Mitchell created a group of paintings inspired by the tree in front of her home in Vetheuil, France. Not a representation, the dense vertical strokes of paint evoke the essence of tree branches reaching upward.

Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 102 3/8 x 70 7/8 inches. © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation - Musée National d'Art Moderne/Centre George Pompidou

La Grande Vallee XIV (For a Little While) (1983)
1983

La Grande Vallee XIV (For a Little While)

La Grande Vallee paintings are an outstanding group of 21 large-scale works created over the span of just one year. Uniquely conceived as a whole or unit, the paintings created a lush and poetic environment when exhibited together. The Grand Valley refers to a story of a secret place or private haven and relates to Mitchell's grief over the deaths of her sister and a good friend.

Oil on canvas. Dimensions: 110 x 236 1/4 inches. © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation - Musée National d'Art Modern/Centre Georges Pompidou

Bracket (1989)
1989

Bracket

A striking 15 feet wide, Bracket is a magnificent example of Mitchell's late work. Known for creating large works, her use of two or more panels allowed her to create monumental works of art. She used the interplay between panels as a compositional tool, like paragraphs or stanzas in a poem.

Oil on canvas, triptych. Dimensions: 102 1/2 x 181 3/4 inches. © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Similar Art

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Joan Mitchell
Influenced by Artist
Artists
Friends & Personal Connections
Movements & Ideas
Open Influences
Close Influences

Useful Resources on Joan Mitchell

websites
articles
video clips
More

Related Artists

Related Movements & Topics

Share
Do more

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Joan Mitchell Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
First published on 01 Aug 2012. Updated and modified regularly
[Accessed ]