Joan Mitchell - Untitled, c 1957 (detail)

Joan Mitchell

United States 1925 - 1992

Abstract Expressionism

Joan Mitchell
Joan Mitchell
United States
September 5, 2016

Joan Mitchell was a famous American painter and important member of the American abstract expressionism, despite the fact that much of her career took place in France. Just like her fellow artists Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan and Helen Frankenthaler, Mitchell was one of her era’s few female artists who gained a lot of public appreciation. She was a tough and disciplined person, always courageous and ready to sail against the wind in the masculine art world, at the time when no one believed that women could paint. I try to eliminate clichés, extraneous material. My painting is not an allegory or a story. It is more like a poem, said Joan Mitchell about her work. [1]

Mitchell was influenced by Kooning in her early paintings. contact faq overview
Joan Mitchell – Untitled, 1957

Joan Mitchell and Her Life Between America and Europe

Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago in the mid-20s. Even though her parents weren’t visual artists, they were into fine arts and poetry. Her father was a physician who enjoyed drawing while her mother was a successful writer. The younger of two daughters, Joan grew up in a family where both art and literature were highly appreciated. She went to high school at Francis W. Parker School, which was a very progressive institution. After she graduated from high school, she enrolled at Smith College. Joan Mitchell also studied fine arts at the summer school organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. These summer lessons were held in Saugatuck, Michigan, where the young artist could enjoy an interesting mix of personal freedom and strict artistic guidance. Mitchell attended another summer school program in Guanajuato, Mexico, in the mid-40s. She proved to be an outstanding young artist and in 1947 she won a Ryerson Traveling Fellowship, which allowed her to visit New York and later on Europe. She lived in Europe for two years, from 1948 to 1950, when she decided to come back to the United States in order to marry Barney Rosset, a future publisher. They were both originally from Chicago, but they moved to New York City in the 1950s.

Joan grew up in a family where both art and literature were highly appreciated

Joan Mitchell – Girolata Triptych, 1964

Education in New York and American Exhibitions

In 1950, the artist kept working on her education – she started taking courses at the prestigious Columbia University and NYU, in order to complete requirements needed for an MFA degree. Joan Mitchell befriended the circle of abstract expressionists as soon as she settled down in NYC and she started attending various events with them. For instance, she was a frequent visitor of Cedar Bar, a popular spot for aspiring creatives, and she also participated in important group exhibitions featuring abstract expressionists, such as the legendary 9th Street Show in 1951. Already a year later, in 1952, she had her first solo show, followed by another one in 1953, held at Stable Gallery. After the great initial success, Mitchell continued showcasing her works at Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. In 1957, Mitchell took part in one of the most important exhibitions in her career – it was called Artists of the New York School: Second Generation and it was held at the Jewish Museum. The term Second Generation was coined to describe creators such as Mitchell herself, Norman Bluhm, and Sam Francis, who were young painters all belonging to the same movement which resembled expressionism. When it comes to Mitchell’s style in the mid and late 1950s, it was based on strong and rhythmical brushstrokes and her works were dynamic, bold and even impulsive. In 1959, Joan Mitchell came back to Europe and she opened a studio in France, located first in Rue Fremicourt in Paris before transferring to Vétheuil in 1968. Vétheuil is a small yet famous town in the French countryside, where the legendary impressionist Claude Monet worked in the 1880s. Mitchell has permanently moved to Vétheuil until her death in 1992.

The term Second Generation was coined to describe ideas of creators such as Mitchell herself, Norman Bluhm, and Sam Francis

Mitchell used to read news about the life and paintings of new york expressionists who painted trees. faq
Joan Mitchell – Wood, Wind, No Tuba, 1980

Exploration Related to Composition and Form

Pop and conceptual art which were taking over abstract expressionism starting from the 60s didn’t prevent the artist from continuing to work in her own, independent style. During this revolutionary era, she kept exhibiting regularly in solo and group shows throughout the United States and France. In the 1980s, when the interest in conceptual art gradually diminished, Mitchell was discovered by a new generation of painters. She participated in the American Art Biennial Exhibition held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1983, with a group of popular young artists including big names such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel. She also took part in numerous annual shows at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. and Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. Joan Mitchell’s exploration of form and composition was rather refreshing as she expanded the previous expressionist tradition. Her bold colors and gestures created a uniquely compelling language, where ideas and feelings are represented through versatile patterns and shapes. Because of the tumultuous energy of her approach, Mitchell’s work has been often described by art critiques as truly breathtaking. Of all the museum retrospectives she had at the Whitney Museum, the one from 2002 was most memorable. It included a wide range of her paintings from different periods of her career, which allowed the viewers to fully understand Joan Mitchell’s artistic achievements.

Mitchell’s exploration of form and composition was rather refreshing as she expanded the previous expressionist tools and tradition

Artist made her Grandes Carrieres painting inspired by the nature of Paris, particularly blooming trees
Joan Mitchell – Grandes Carrières, 1961–62

Collections, Awards and Art Market

Mitchell’s paintings can be found in various prestigious collections, including The Museum of Modern Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and The Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois. There is also the Joan Mitchell Foundation, which was established in 1993 as a non-profit organization. This foundation is still active and it gives numerous awards, grants, and stipends to talented creatives. It is important to mention that already during her lifetime, Mitchell has achieved a lot of commercial success, more than any other female painter of the same generation. Between 1960 and 1962, she has earned over $30,000, while in 2007, the Art Institute of Chicago sold one of Mitchell’s work from 1957 at Christie’s New York for astounding $3.8 million.[2]

Between 1960 and 1962, Mitchell has earned over $30,000 from the sales of her works

Mitchell started to read news more often after she obtained $30,000. faq overview
Joan Mitchell – Untitled, 1992

Outpacing Her Male Counterparts

Joan Mitchell was one of the rare women among the best-ranked abstract expressionists. She proved to be more successful than the majority of her male mentors and fellow painters, with Lee Krasner being her only female rival.[3] Even though she was well-received by the most influential critics and artists, her great achievements didn’t receive full recognition during her lifetime. For instance, her paintings haven’t been shown in New York City for roughly 20 years, because of her different style which made it even harder for her to excel in the art world led primarily by male creators. Throughout her life, the artist was deeply committed to autonomous abstract works, which allowed her to express her immense love for the craft and technique of contemporary painting.

The artist is represented by Hauser & Wirth, Weng Contemporary and Woodward Gallery.

Joan Mitchell died on October 30, 1992.


    1. Pagel, David (2010) Art Review: Joan Mitchell , Los Angeles Times [September 4, 2016]
    2. Albers, Patricia Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter, Knopf, 2011.
    3. Livingston, Jane The Paintings of Joan Mitchell, University of California Press, 2002.

Featured image: Joan Mitchell – Untitled, c. 1957 (detail). Oil on canvas. 14 3/8 x 21 7/8 in. 36.5 x 55.6 cm. Photo courtesy Berry Campbell Gallery
All images © Joan Mitchell Foundation

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Joan Mitchell Retrospective:nHer Life and PaintingsMuseum Ludwig, Cologne, GermanySolo
2016Joan Mitchell: Drawing into PaintingCheim & Read, New York, NYSolo
2015Joan Mitchell - The Sketchbook of DrawingsMuseum Folkwang Essen, EssenSolo
2014Joan Mitchell: TreesCheim & Read, New York City, NYSolo
2014Joan Mitchell - The Black DrawingsLennon, Weinberg, Inc., New York City, NYSolo
2014Why nature?Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York City, NYGroup
2014Stone on the screenStudio Franck Bordas, ParisGroup
2014Stone on the screenEngraving Centre and the Printed Image, La LouviereGroup
2014In three stagesMuseum of Fine Arts in Caen, CaenGroup
2014Form Figure Abstraction 1940-1960DC Moore Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2014Rothko to Richter: Mark-Making in Abstract Painting from the Collection of Preston H. HaskellPrinceton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJGroup
2014Mitchell, Benglis, WilkeWilliams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MAGroup
2014Hans Hofmann, Joan Mitchell, Sam FrancisGalerie Thomas Modern, MunichGroup
2014Everybody is NobodyFundación Banco Santander, Boadilla del MonteGroup
2014The Age Of Small ThingsDODGEgallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013Paper product: Portfolios From The Polly And Mark Addison CollectionCU Art Museum, Boulder, COGroup
2013Summer SelectionsHollis Taggart Galleries, New York City, NYGroup
2013Chamberlain MitchellGagosian Gallery, RomeGroup
2013Our Treasures: Highlights from the Minnesota Museum of American ArtFrederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, MNGroup
2013From Provincetown to Now 100 Years of Women in PrintsMary Ryan Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2012Joan Mitchell - The Last PaintingsAuser & Wirth London, Piccadilly, LondonSolo
2012Elles: PompidouSeattle Art Museum, Seattle, WAGroup
2012Elles: SamOlympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WAGroup
2012Portrait Landscape: Genre BoundariesMoscow museum of modern art - MMOMA, MoscowGroup
2012Abstract Expressionist Works on PaperFlint Institute of Arts, Flint, MIGroup
2012Between Abstract and FigurativePalm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2012After MayCheryl Hazan Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2012American Masters at the Norton: Clyfford Still and Joan MitchellNorton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FLGroup
2012Intimate Immensity: The Susan And Larry Marx CollectionHammer Museum, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2012Form and formlessnessMuseum of Fine Arts, Dole, DoleGroup
2011American Treasures: Masterworks From The Butler Institute Of American ArtBoca Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FLGroup
2011Looking Back: The 6th White Columns AnnualWhite Columns, New York City, NYGroup
2011Master DrawingsSchroeder Romero & Shredder, New York City, NYGroup
2011Carolina Collects: 150 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art from Alumni CollectionsAckland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NCGroup
2011Little GemsAnita Shapolsky Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2011The Women in Our Life: A Fifteen Year Anniversary ExhibitionCheim & Read, New York City, NYGroup
2011OvertureBlanton Museum of Art, Austin, TXGroup
2011Simply Masterful: Picasso and Artists of the Modern Era Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2011Abstract Expressionism and its DiscontentsPennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PAGroup
2011FamilienbandeGalerie Thomas Modern, MunichGroup
2011Matrix to ImpressionMadelyn Jordon Fine Art, Scarsdale, NYGroup
2011EditionsMary Ryan Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2010Joan Mitchell - The Last DecadeGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CASolo
2010Joan Mitchell in New Orleans: PrintsContemporary Arts Center New Orleans - CAC, New Orleans, LASolo
2010Joan Mitchell: Works on PaperNewcomb Art Gallery , New Orleans, LASolo
2010PaversSchroeder Romero & Shredder, New York City, NYGroup
2010The Nature of Art: Encounters with nature from the 19th century to the present dayKunstmuseum Winterthur, WinterthurGroup
2010Inquiring Eyes: Greensboro Collects ArtWeatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NCGroup
2010Abstraction RevisitedCAM - Chelsea Art Museum, New York City, NYGroup
2010Masters of the GestureGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CAGroup
2010The Jewel ThiefThe Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NYGroup
2010Women ArtistsReading Public Museum, Reading, PAGroup
2010Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher CollectionSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art - SFMOMA, San Francisco, CAGroup
2010Art of Our Time: Selections from the Ulrich Museum of ArtUlrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KSGroup
2010Monet and AbstractionThyssen-Bornemisza Museum, MadridGroup
2010Modern Times: responding to chaosKettle's Yard, Cambridge, CambridgeshireGroup
2009Joan Mitchell - DrawingsKukje Gallery, SeoulSolo
2009Joan Mitchell - SunflowersHauser & Wirth Zürich, ZurichSolo
2009Joan Mitchell - A Discovery of New York SchooKunsthalle Emden, EmdenSolo
2009Joan Mitchell - SunflowersCheim & Read, New York City, NYSolo
2009Joan Mitchell | Paintings and Pastels 1973-1983Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., New York City, NYSolo
2009DeadlineMusée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - MAM/ARC, ParisGroup
2009Before AgainLennon, Weinberg, Inc., New York City, NYGroup
2009Masters of printmaking: the twentieth centuryGalerie Simon Blais, Montreal, QCGroup
2009The Passionate Pursuit: Gifts and Promised Works from Donna and Cargill MacMillan, Jr.Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2009Influences of Nature on AbstractionTayloe Piggott Gallery, Jackson, WYGroup
2009The Female Gaze: Women Look At WomenCheim & Read, New York City, NYGroup
2009Impressionist and Modern Masters: Nature and LightPalm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2009Pictures dreams. The Collection Ulla and Heiner PietzschNew National Gallery, BerlinGroup
2009FLOWER POWERCraa Centro di ricerca arte attuale Villa Giulia, VerbaniaGroup
2009Collect With UsArmand Bartos Fine Art, New York City, NYGroup
2009International: 20th Century and Contemporary MastersHillsboro Fine Art, DublinGroup
2009Chain LinksGeorgia Scherman Projects, Toronto, ONGroup
2009Abstract Expressionism: Further Evidence (Part One: Painting)Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2009WHITE LIGHT WHITE HEATHauser & Wirth, LondonGroup
2009Action Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
2009SmithBarbara Mathes Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2008Wonder WomenAnita Shapolsky Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2008Synesthesia: Art and the MindMcMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, ONGroup
2008Autumn Group ShowEdward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York City, NYGroup
2008Seductions: Impressionist and 20th-Century PaintingPalm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2008Paper Trail II: Passing Through CloudsThe Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MAGroup
2008Masters of Abstraction ExhibitionAnita Shapolsky Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2008The American Evolution - A History through ArtThe Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DCGroup
2008Action PaintingFondation Beyeler, RiehenGroup
2008Empires and EnvironmentsThe Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MAGroup
2008Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Work by Abstract ExpressionistsUtah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UTGroup
2007Joan Mitchell Leaving AmericaAuser & Wirth London, Piccadilly, LondonSolo
2007Joan Mitchell - The Last PrintsSusan Sheehan Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2007Joan Mitchell: Paintings, Pastels and Prints, 1962-1991Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, FLSolo
2007Gestes, signes, traces, espacesMusée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, CaenGroup
2007The Passionate GestureHackett Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2007When Art Worlds Collide - The 60Woodward Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2007Contemporary Currents - Selections from the Bank of America CollectionMOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FLGroup
2007The color constantly renewedTribute to Jean Fournier - Musée Fabre, MontpellierGroup
2005Joan Mitchell - Prints from the FoundationSusan Sheehan Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2005Joan Mitchell - Fremicourt Paintings 1960-62Cheim & Read, New York City, NYSolo
2005Joan Mitchell: SketchbookFrancis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York City, NYSolo
2004The Paintings of Joan MitchellDes Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IASolo
2002Joan Mitchell | Petit LennonWeinberg, Inc., New York City, NYSolo
2002Joan Mitchell - The Presence of AbsenceCheim & Read, New York City, NYSolo
1999The Nature of Abstraction: Joan Mitchell Paintings, Drawings, and PrintsWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNSolo