Mitchell, Joan

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Mitchell, Joan

Joan Mitchell, 1926–92, American abstract painter, b. Chicago, studied Smith College, Art Institute of Chicago (B.F.A., 1947; M.F.A., 1950). A vibrant colorist, she was one of the finest painters of the second generation of abstract expressionism. In Manhattan during the 1950s Mitchell encountered action painting, developing friendships with such artists as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline and becoming part of a male-dominated art world. Her emotionally intense paintings of the 1950s feature slashing strokes of vivid color. From the next decade on she moved to equally intense canvases in which linear elements are joined by large gestural blocks, skeins, or cascades in lush colors. In 1959, Mitchell settled in France where, rejecting the movements that dominated art from the 1960s on, she continued to paint in an abstract expressionist style. Usually very large, sometimes in multipanel format, her often radiantly lyrical paintings incorporate both turbulence and control and are frequently inspired by landscapes and poetry.

See biography by P. Albers (2011); K. Kertess, Joan Mitchell (1997); J. Livingston et al., The Paintings of Joan Mitchell (2002).

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