Joan Mitchell On Mitchell

From the Archive: ca. 1990 Sketchbook



Joan Mitchell kept this sketchbook in or around 1990, at which point she had been living in the French town of Vétheuil for over twenty years. Her home and studio was surrounded by gardens and trees, with an expansive view of the Seine and a very distinct quality of light. From the time she was a child living on the banks of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Mitchell was an extremely close observer of the visual world, and with a heightened sensitivity developed over four decades of intensive work, Mitchell was able to capture through color and gesture the sensations of being in the natural world, viewing colors and light deepen and alter through changes in weather and season. 

A number of the pastel and watercolor drawings in this sketchbook bear close relation to her Champs (Fields) and Arbres (Trees) paintings and prints. Mitchell was at the height of her abilities at the time she kept this sketchbook, and each mark radiates confidence, tenderness, and an enormous gratitude towards the landscapes that surrounded her.

For further context, below are paintings, prints, and photographs from the time Mitchell kept this sketchbook. 

Left: Champs, 1990. Oil on canvas, diptych. 110 1/4 x 141 3/4 inches. Right: Champs (Black, Gray and Yellow), 1991–92. Color lithograph, 30 x 22 1/8 inches. 125 + proofs, printed by Atelier Bordas, Paris. Published by Editions Jean Fournier and Editions de la Difference, Paris. 

Countryside near Vétheuil, France, August 1983. Photograph by Robert Freson, collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Archives.


Left: Trees, 1992. Oil on canvas, diptych. 110 1/4 x 157 1/2 inches. Right: Trees IV, 1992. Color lithograph on two sheets, 57 x 82 inches, 34 + proofs, printed and published by Tyler Graphics, Ltd., Mt. Kisco, NY. 

All images © Estate of Joan Mitchell.