During high school, Mitchell excels as an athlete and becomes a highly competitive figure skater, entering Midwestern and national championships. In 1941, Mitchell wins the Midwest Junior Pairs Title with ice-skating partner Bobby Specht, and in 1942, she places Fourth in the Junior Women’s Division of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. A knee injury later ends her skating career.
Mitchell at Ox-Bow, Saugatuck, Michigan.
Mitchell attends Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, as an English major. During 1943 and 1944, she spends summer breaks from Smith at Ox-Bow, an art colony operated by the Art Institute of Chicago in Saugatuck, Michigan. Here she paints en plein air and experiments with lithography for the first time.
Mitchell on Lake Michigan, circa 1946; photo by Barney Rosset.
Mitchell accepts a scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, entering as a second-year student.
"Tired Children", circa 1947.
Mitchell graduates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA degree and is awarded the Art Institute’s James Nelson Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship to study abroad, which she postpones due to postwar conditions in Europe.
June–August. Her lithograph Tired Children (c. 1947), shown in the “Fifty-first Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity” at the Art Institute of Chicago, receives the Print Committee Prize.
Spring. Mitchell sails from New York to Paris, finding a small studio on rue Galande in the city’s fifth arrondissement. She travels with Rosset to Spain, and later to Czechoslovakia.
Winter. Returning to Paris, but with no heating in her studio, Mitchell is taken ill and advised by a doctor at the American Hospital to “go south for the winter.” She moves with Rosset to Le Lavandou in Provence where they rent a villa; she spends a year working there, painting mainly expressionist landscapes evolving toward abstraction.
Mitchell with Barney Rosset in Brooklyn.
In the winter of 1949, Mitchell marries Rosset in France. Shortly afterward, they embark by ship from Cannes for the United States, arriving back in New York at the end of the year.