Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

‘Unlike the brooding and macho Abstract Expressionism characteristic of Rothko or Kline, Mitchell’s paintings draw much of their inspiration from nature, setting her apart from her American contemporaries’*

Mitchell studied art in Massachusetts for two years before transferring in 1944 back to her hometown of Chicago. She received her B.F.A. in 1947, leading to a scholarship supporting a tour of Europe. In 1950 she received her M.F.A.

As well as finding inspiration from artists like Kline, Mitchell also drew ideas from the works of Cezanne, Van Gogh and Kandinsky. It was these European influences which first led Mitchell away from the stricter, representational academically taught art, to a freer and more abstract style. Despite her connections within the New York scene, Mitchell stayed somewhat apart, partially due to her more European influences, and latterly when she began to divide her time between Paris and New York in the mid 1950s. Interest in Mitchell’s work, and of her role in the Abstract Expressionist movement was reignited/created in 2002, due to a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. (Whilst her male contemporaries have works in the permanent collection at MoMA as part of a display of  “pivotal” moments in the creation of modern art)


Mitchell is a wonderful example of an artist who took inspiration from others, but also from herself, she did not blindly follow her male contemporaries (as some art historians make artists who are women seem to). She held on to her ideas inspired by the rawness and beauty of the natural landscape.

*The 20th Century Artbook (Phaidon, 199, p.309),,,


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