Joan Mitchell (February 12, 1925 - October 30, 1992) was a "Second Generation" Abstract Expressionist painter. Along with Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan, and Helen Frankenthaler she was one of the few female painters of her era to gain critical and public acclaim. Her paintings can be seen in major museums and collections across America and Europe.
Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois. She studied at Smith College, Massachusetts, The Art Institute of Chicago, and and at Columbia University, New York. She also studied at Hans Hofmann’s school in New York and traveled in France, Spain, and Italy. By the early 1950s, she was regarded as a leading artist in the New York School. In her early years as a painter, she was influenced by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Wassily Kandinsky, and later by the work of Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, among others.
In 1955, Mitchell moved to France to join her life and artistic partner, Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, with whom she had a long, rich, and tumultuous relationship. They maintained separate homes and studios, but had dinner and drank together daily. They first lived in Paris, and then moved west to the town of Giverny, near Claude Monet's home.
Her paintings are expansive, often covering two separate panels. Landscape was the primary influence on her subject matter. She painted on unprimed canvas or white ground with gestural, sometimes violent brushwork. Her paintings are highly expressive and emotional.
During the period between 1960 and 1964, Mitchell moved away from the all-over style and bright colors of her earlier compositions, instead using sombre hues and dense central masses of color to express something inchoate and primordial. The marks on these works are extraordinary: the paint flung and aqueezed on to the canvases, spilling and spluttering across their surfaces and smeared on with the artist's fingers.
She said that she wanted her paintings "to convey the feeling of the dying sunflower."
Mitchell died in 1992 in Vétheuil, a suburb of Paris, France.
The Joan Mitchell Foundation awards grants and stipends to painters, sculptors, and artist collectives. It is located in Manhattan at 155 Avenue of the Americas.