Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago in 1925. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947, she was awarded a James Nelson Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship, which took her to France for a year in 1948-49, and it was there that her paintings moved toward abstraction. Returning to New York, she participated in the famous “9th Street Show” in 1951, and soon established a reputation as one of the leading younger American Abstract Expressionist painters. She exhibited regularly in New York throughout the next four decades and maintained close friendships with many New York School painters and poets.
In 1955 she began dividing her time between New York and France, and in 1968 she settled in Vétheuil, a small town in the countryside outside of Paris, where she worked continuously until her death in 1992. During the almost 50 years of her painting life, as Abstract Expressionism was eclipsed by successive styles, Mitchell’s commitment to the tenets of gestural abstraction remained firm and uncompromising. Summing up her achievement, Klaus Kertess wrote, “She transformed the gestural painterliness of Abstract Expressionism into a vocabulary so completely her own that it could become ours as well. And her total absorption of the lessons of Matisse and van Gogh led to a mastery of color inseparable from the movement of light and paint. Her ability to reflect the flow of her consciousness in that of nature, and in paint, is all but unparalleled.”
Mitchell gave personal support to many young artists who came to stay with her at Vétheuil— sometimes for just one night; sometimes for an entire summer. Correspondence in her papers reveals that this generosity often had a life-changing impact on those that spent time with her. Her generosity in her own lifetime continued after her death with the formation of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, called for in her will in order to create support and recognition for individual artists. In addition, the Foundation mission includes the promotion and preservation of her legacy, which includes her remarkable body of work, her papers, including correspondence and photographs, and other archival materials related to her life and work.
Untitled, 1989. Oil on canvas, 50 1/2 x 79 1/2 inches (128.3 x 201.9 cm). Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York. © Estate of Joan Mitchell.
Untitled, 1991. Pastel on paper diptych, 10 3/4 x 15 inches (27.3 x 38.1 cm). Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York. © Estate of Joan Mitchell.
Trees I, 1992. Color lithograph on two sheets, 57 x 82 inches, 34 + proofs, printed and published by Tyler Graphics, Ltd., Mt. Kisco, NY. Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York. © Estate of Joan Mitchell.
Joan Mitchell: At Home in Poetry
February 4–May 2013
Poetry Foundation, Chicago, Illinois
Joan Mitchell: An American Master
January 16–May 19, 2013
Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Mitchell's paintings can also be found in numerous public collections: please review Collections on this site for the listing of institutions.
Chamberlain | Mitchell
February 8–March 9, 2013
Gagosian Gallery, Rome, Italy
Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris
October 11, 2012–January 13, 2013
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
Our Treasures: Highlights from the Minnesota Museum of American Art
September 30, 2012–January 6, 2013
Plains Art Museum, North Dakota
Joan Mitchell's artwork is held in numerous public collections, nationally and internationally. Read more for the complete listings.
Ici, 1992. Oil on canvas, left panel: 102 x 78 3/4 in. (259.1 x 200 cm), right panel: 102 3/8 x 78 7/8 in. (260 x 200.3 cm). Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by the Shoenberg Foundation, Inc. © Estate of Joan Mitchell.
The Joan Mitchell archives include correspondence, photographs, exhibition-related and other printed materials, books, sketches, manuscripts by writers, other items collected during her lifetime, and materials collected by her Estate and Foundation since 1992. Read more.
Copyright for works by Joan Mitchell resides with the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and we welcome requests to reproduce images of her work. The Foundation will review submitted information and if we approve a request, we will prepare a written license agreement. The Foundation requires copies of the item(s) with the reproduction, and in some cases, high-resolution image(s) of the work(s) in exchange for permission to reproduce. Read more.
We are currently accepting submissions of information on artwork to be considered for inclusion in the Catalogue Raisonné. Owners of works by Joan Mitchell are encouraged to contact the Joan Mitchell Foundation by filling out a catalogue raisonné submission form. Read more.
- Does the Foundation authenticate artwork?
No, but if you wish, you can send us an image of the work and any related provenance. We can look at the materials and tell you if we have a record of it. If we do not, it simply means we do not have a record.
- Does the Foundation do appraisals of artwork by Joan Mitchell?
- I want to reproduce an image by Joan Mitchell, what do I need to do?
Please visit the page on copyright info for more details.
- Is there a Catalogue Raisonné of Joan Mitchell’s work?
Not yet, but we are currently accepting submissions of information on artwork to be considered for inclusion in the Catalogue Raisonné. A submission form is available on the Catalogue Raisonné page.
- I own a Joan Mitchell painting and would like to submit info on the artwork for the Catalogue Raisonné.
Please visit the Catalogue Raisonné page to find a form to submit.