After living in New York and being immersed in the Abstract Expressionist movement, Joan Mitchell permanently moved to Paris in 1959. Along with the change of environment came a significant change in her work. The paintings during this period seem to contain an intense concentration of energy. The present painting exhibits a centrifugal force where the mass of painting is concentrated in the center of the canvas.
Klaus Kertess has spoken of this period of Mitchell's career: "And now her paintings begin to surge with a violence that threatens the plane. But, just in time, each seething web of warring brushstrokes diffuses into a hiss and reluctantly subsides into the ambient whiteness, where the marks start to bend their trajectories into greater conformity with the rectangular shape of the support. No less furious is the polyphony of color, as changing hues race across the surface. That this high voltage doesn't short-circuit the light, but rather projects it radiantly forth, bespeaks the power of Mitchell's control" (K. Kertess, Joan Mitchell, New York, 1997, p. 27).
Mitchell was a painter of nature. She was keenly affected by the cityscape of Paris and later the landscape of Claude Monet's territory, Véteuil. The unharnassed force of nature was something she felt compelled to emulate in her own canvases. The horizontal orientation of the present painting brings to mind a cluster of stormy clouds that foreshadows an oncoming rainstorm. The masterful layering of multiple lines and various passages in the present work creates an extraordinary mass of paint that is at once transparent and dense that seems to hover in front of the viewer.
Fig. 1 Joan Mitchell, 1950s, photograph by Barney Rosset