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, 1960. Oil on canvas, 48 x 79 1/2 inches (121.9 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.
Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction
April 15 – August 13, 2017
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Mitchell's paintings can also be found in numerous public collections. Please review the Collections page of our website for a list and map of these institutions.
Mitchell / Riopelle: Un Couple Dans La Démesure
October 12, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Joan Mitchell: Drawing into Painting
October 27 – December 31, 2016
Cheim & Read, New York, NY
Women of Abstract Expressionism
October 22, 2016 – January 22, 2017
Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC
Women of Abstract Expressionism
June 12, 2016 – September 25, 2016
Denver Art Museum, Denver CO
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. Learn 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. Learn more.
The Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné is presently researching Joan Mitchell’s paintings in preparation of a catalogue raisonné. This will be a scholarly publication documenting all of the artist’s painted work, including entries for each painting with complete descriptive information and detailed histories of ownership, exhibitions, and literature.
If you are a current or previous owner of one or more of Mitchell’s paintings, please provide information on the artwork in your collection by clicking here. All information provided will remain strictly confidential.
The Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné is a project supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation. For more information, visit the website of the Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné at joanmitchellcr.org.
- Does the Foundation provide authentications?
No, the Foundation does not authenticate works of art.
- Does the Foundation do appraisals of artwork by Joan Mitchell?
No. The following organizations publish directories of their members, who provide appraisal services: Amercian Society of Appraisers, Appraisers Association of America, and the International Society of Appraisers.
- 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?
The Catalogue Raisonné project was established in 2015 and is now collecting information on the paintings of Joan Mitchell. Current or previous owners of Mitchell's work can contact the project manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I own a Joan Mitchell painting and would like to submit info on the artwork for the Catalogue Raisonné.
Please contact us at email@example.com to let us know about your painting.