Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell was an American abstract artist, and one of the leading figures of the New York School. Coming to prominence amid the throes of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s, she is celebrated for her gestural paintings, drawings and prints. Mitchell spent much of her life in France, where she imbibed the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Alive with light, colour and texture, her art sings with the rhythms of the natural world.

Mitchell was born in 1925 and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Arriving in New York in 1949, she took her place among an emerging generation of abstract artists, exhibiting alongside figures such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Along with Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and a handful of others, she was one of the few female painters of this period to gain widespread recognition.

From 1955 onwards, Mitchell began to spend increasing amounts of time in France, eventually settling in Paris in 1959. Early paintings such as City Landscape (1955) and Ladybug (1957) capture the emergence of her exuberant language. Mitchell combined the influence of American abstraction with the lessons of European Modernism, engaging with the work of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and others. During this period she also met the Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, with whom she would pursue a tumultuous romantic relationship until 1979.

In 1968, Mitchell moved to a house in Vétheuil, close to the former home of Claude Monet. A major exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris between 2022 and 2023 explored the relationship between the two artists. Where Monet had attempted to capture the shifting beauty of the natural landscape, Mitchell remained adamant that her paintings were non-representational. ‘I would rather leave nature to itself,’ she explained. ‘It is quite beautiful enough as it is. I certainly never mirror it. I would like more to paint what it leaves me with.’ Masterworks such as Les Bluets (1973), La Vie en Rose (1979), her River series and her late Sunflowers bear witness to this approach.

Christie’s continues to lead the market for Mitchell’s work. In 2018, Blueberry (1969) sold for $16,625,000, setting a new auction record. Other notable paintings sold at Christie’s include La Grande Vallée VII (1983), Untitled (1989) and 12 Hawks at 3 O'Clock (1960), each realising prices in excess of $14,000,000.

JOAN MITCHELL (1925-1992)

Trees (Black, Yellow and Blue)

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

La Grande Vallée VII

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

12 Hawks at 3 O'Clock

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

Russian Easter

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

The 14th of July

JOAN MITCHELL (1925-1992)

Butterfly Beach

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

Mont St. Hilaire

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

Aires Pour Marion

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992)

Landscape for a Friend

JOAN MITCHELL (1925-1992)

Before, Again III