Born into a wealthy artistic family in Chicago in 1925, Joan Mitchell grew up in the midst of the Great Depression and its a¡ermath. Her desire to create art led her to enrol first at Smith College and later to study at the renowned Art Institute of Chicago, from 1944.
Associated with the second generation of Abstract Expressionists, she spent time with Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock when living in New York. But while her immediate artistic environment was American, her greatest influences were decidedly European – Van Gogh of course, Cézanne, Matisse, Kandinsky and late Monet with his last Water Lilies – although she never claimed this overtly. After a move to Paris in 1959, where she produced what she described as her “violent and angry paintings”, and as in New York Abstract Expressionism was giving way to the first glimpses of Minimalism, she chose to settle in Vétheuil in 1968, in a house overlooking Claude Monet’s former residence. At the time she was living with her partner, the Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, a member of the Automatistes movement. It was during this period that Mitchell began her Sunflowers series, dedicated to Van Gogh. In 1982 the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art presented a selected retrospective of her paintings from 1970 to 1982. She was awarded the French national painting prize in 1989. Joan Mitchell passed away in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, in 1992.
Art critic Yves Michaud recorded these words from an interview with Mitchell in 1986: “I paint from landscapes of the memory I carry with me and the memory of feelings they inspired in me and which, of course, have been transformed. I prefer to leave nature to itself. I do not intend to improve it. I could never mirror it. I love most of all what it leaves inside me.”
Previous exhibitions (selection)
Mitchell/Riopelle, un couple dans la démesure, musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec (Canada)
Joan Mitchell: the Last Paintings, Cheim & Read, New York (United States)
Joan Mitchell. Peintures, musée des impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny (France)
Sunflowers, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich (Switzerland)