Joan Mitchell, an American painter known for her large-scale abstract paintings, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1925. She received her B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947 and subsequently pursued a fellowship in France while traveling to other European countries as well. By the end of her stay abroad, Mitchell had begun to transition away from the structure of her academic training and explored a more expressive technique attune to styles associated with established painters such as Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Wassily Kandinsky. Upon her return to New York in 1950, she had abandoned representation entirely and embraced abstraction. She extracted influence from Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and especially the works of Franz Kline. In 1955, five years after obtaining her M.F.A. from the Art Institute, she returned to France, this time with Canadian-born French painter Jean-Paul Riopelle. From that point on, she split her time between Paris and New York and in 1969 relocated her rue Fremicourt studio to the small village of Vetheuil outside of the city. After an unfortunate series of events that led to a decline in her health, Mitchell passed away in Paris in 1992.
Mitchell’s gestural style is associated with the latter half of the Abstract Expressionism movement. Her work often incorporates thick brush strokes, intense movement, vibrant colors, and textural collections of paint on the canvas. In the 1950s, at the height of her career, Mitchell was one of the few female artists to gain traction in critical and public circles. Her influence extends to more recent generations of artists and the market for her work is more alive than ever.
As of recently, Mitchell’s work has gained renewed attention. In the past five years, her pieces have appeared in two major exhibitions. In 2015-2016 she was the focal artist of the traveling solo survey at Austria’s Kunsthaus Bregenz and in 2017-2018 she received a co-feature in the Mitchel/Riopelle show, “Nothing in Moderation.” Amid the pandemic and a transition to virtual collecting platforms, Mitchell’s work found its way to the Canadian auction house, Heffel. A Mitchell retrospective is currently underway and set to open later in the year. The Baltimore Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York are all co-developing this upcoming event.