"My paintings aren’t about art issues. They’re about a feeling that comes to me from the outside; from landscape... the painting is just a surface to be covered. Paintings aren’t about the person who makes them, either. My paintings have to do with feelings."
- Joan Mitchell
As a rising star on the Abstract Expressionist art scene of the 1950s, Joan Mitchell was known to be as lively and dynamic as her work. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1925, and studied at Smith College in Massachusetts before returning to her native city to complete her BFA in 1947. Three years later she received her MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she immersed herself in its vibrant art scene, associating with painters Willem de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, and Jackson Pollock among others.
Mitchell’s first success was to be included in the groundbreaking Ninth Street Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, organized by Leo Castelli and the Artist’s Club, in 1951. Her work by this time was exclusively abstract, and she employed bold, aggressive brushwork and vivid color in her painting and works on paper, which included pastel and prints. Her primary inspiration for much of her career was the natural world, chiefly flowers and landscapes, which she abstracted into a signature style.
In the mid-1950s, Mitchell began dividing her time between New York and France, where she had spent time during her postgraduate studies. In 1968 she made the town of Vétheuil outside Paris her permanent residence, and she lived and worked there until her death in 1992. Mitchell’s career was prolific, and her art was exhibited widely in both the United States and abroad. In 1974, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a solo exhibition of her work, curated by Marcia Tucker, and, in 1982, Joan Mitchell: Choix de Peintures, 1970-1982, the artist’s first major European exhibition, opened at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris. Despite changing tastes in the art world, Mitchell remained a stalwart practitioner and proponent of Abstract Expressionism throughout her life. Her work today is considered indispensable to postwar American art, and her paintings can be found in numerous and significant museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Tate Gallery, London.