Joan Mitchell is a premier landscape artist of the Post-War period. She took the vocabulary of the nascent Abstract Expressionists and applied it to the age-old tradition of landscape painting. In the late 1980s, she embarked on a series of paintings that focused on individual aspects of nature. With simple titles such as Mountain, Water and Wind, the present work, Mitchell was able to grasp the pictorial possibilities and symbolic implications of each element. In Wind, one does not see a simplistic image of abstract diagonal strokes denoting movements of blowing wind. But rather, one witnesses a more subtle interpretation. The composition resembles a kind of veil that is composed of loose tendrils of brilliant color. Each line creates volume and pocket of "air" that together achieves a picture of voluptuousness and elegance.
During this period, Mitchell was in poor health, and yet, enjoyed great success in her career; she was the subject of a number of retrospective exhibitions and awards. This renewed attention from the art world elevated her status from a second-generation Abstract Expressionist to a major figure of Post-War American painting.
The lyrical nature of her abstract landscapes is even more evident in her late work, where the serene composition and open brushwork convey an image of earthly paradise. Klaus Kertess writes, "The constant in Mitchell's working was her open commitment to beauty and deep love of the physical acts of painting. Whether materializing joyous memories or painful ones, or the ambiguous shades in between, the love of beauty and of painting remained constant. So, too, did the visceral physicality and the visible openness of structure that so directly, and vulnerably, sought to ravish the viewer's eye, drawing it into complicity with the profundities that exacerbated the painting's surface." (K. Kertess, Joan Mitchell, New York, 1997, p. 41.)
Fig. 1 Minor White, Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester, New York, July 1958