Joan Mitchell was born February 12th 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. She lived in Chicago until she went to attend Smith College in Massachusetts. She was only at Smith for a short while before transferring back to Chicago to attend the Art Institute from which she would earn her BFA in 1947 and then her MFA in 1950. During her time a the Art Institute she also studied with Hans Hofmann for a short period until she received a travel grant of $2,000 which allowed her to study in Paris and Provence for two years. This study in France would ignite a love for France that stayed with Mitchell all her life.
While Abroad Mitchell married the American publisher Barney Rosset in 1949. They divorced shortly after in 1952. Throughout the 1950's Mitchell was a very active member in the New York art scene and apart of the group of second generation abstract expressionist painters. In 1955 she moved to France where she painted a great deal and developed a long lasting relationship with a Canadian painter named Jean-Paul Riopelle.
Mitchell is looked upon as a key figure and one of the handful of women artists of the abstract expressionist movement and the 1950's New York School. Her paintings are often very large and influenced by landscape and reaction to landscape. A big admirer of Matisse, her work also frequently deals with the use of color in creating harmonious, juxtaposing, or structural compositions.
In the later years of her life Mitchell's health went into decline. Still living in France, in 1984 she was diagnosed with oral cancer. This set her into a state of depression and she began to substitute her heavy smoking habit with a bad drinking habit. She was later diagnosed with osteoarthritis and underwent a relatively unsuccessful hip replacement surgery. In October of 1992, Mitchell flew back to New York to see the Matisse exhibit held at the MOMA. After her arrival in New York she was sent to the hospital where after many tests she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She returned to Paris after the exhibit and was hospitalized again. Mitchell died on October 30th, 1992 in the American Hospital of Paris.
By Christian Franzen
By Christian Franzen