Joan Mitchell was a principal figure - and one of the few female artists - of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists in America. She is best known for her impressive body of highly abstract works that are characterized by her rhythmic painting, bold coloration and gestural brushwork. Born and raised in Chicago, Mitchell’s father took her to visit museums like Art Institute of Chicago, and her mother was a poet and writer, sparking her interest in both art and poetry. She studied art and English at Smith College, before transferring to the Art Institute of Chicago where she pursed painting. There, Mitchell was exposed to their collection, which included works by Wasily Kandinsky, Henri Mattise and Cezanne. After moving to New York, she was introduced to the ideas and artworks of the New York School, which celebrated Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky. In 1949, Mitchell became friends with Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, and became one of the few women invited to join the exclusive Artists’ Club in Greenwich Village.
Mitchell was prominent in the Abstract Expressionist movement and her intent was to convey emotions through her artworks rather than creating recognizable imagery. Inspired by nature and landscape, Mitchell rejected the emphasis on flatness and the all-over approach of her Abex colleagues and instead retained a more traditional sense of figure/ground in her paintings, evoking impressions of landscapes. In 1959, Mitchell moved to Paris permanently and continued to paint what she termed “expressionist landscapes” over multiple panels. Her oeuvre is characterized by exceptional brushwork, color and multi-paneled paintings. She achieved great success as an artist at a time when few women artists were recognized for their work.
Joan Mitchell has been the subject of numerous international museum and gallery exhibitions, and her works reside in almost every public Modern Art collection, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Tate Gallery in London. The Joan Mitchell Foundation, established in 1993, celebrates her legacy by providing grants and other support for painters and sculptures working today.