Door 21: Joan Mitchell

All Pictures © Joan Mitchell Foundation

Abstract expressionism is seen as a men' only club, but fortunately there are exceptions like Elaine de Kooning, Shirley Jaffe or Helen Frankenthaler. These women had to fight hard for their position and another wonderful example therefore is the American painter Joan Mitchell

Untitled (1951)

Born in 1925 in Chicago, she grew up in a wealthy family. Her dad was a doctor, famous for his work on syphilis and her mother was a poet and co-editor of Poetry. But it was not an easy childhood. The relationship with her father was ambiguous. One the one side, he himself an amateur painter, sparked and fostered her interest in the arts, but at the same time highlighted, disappointed that she was not a boy, that she as a woman was second class.


Untitled (1960)

Perhaps this injustice initiated the drive that she had through her entire career. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947 she got a fellowship to travel abroad, but first moved to New York, where she got in contact with the New York School. There she met among other Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning. She was one of the few women to be granted membership in the so-called Club, founded by Jackson Pollock.

Her career took on momentum as she was part of the the landmark 1951 exhibition The Ninth Street Show, organized by Leo Castelli and a year later she had her first solo exhibition at the New Gallery. After a few visits, she moved in 1959 to France, first to Paris and then northwest to Vétheuil, where Claude Monet lived.   After her mother's death,  she inherited some money and bought a house there, where she stayed until her death in 1992.

Untitled (1987)

Stylistically she is known for broad and intense brushstrokes, despite being abstract often depicting landscapes or her surroundings, inspired by famous artists like Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Also, contrary to her peers she never abandoned composition, which is visible through her entire body of work.