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Joan Mitchell Untitled, 1955

Joan Mitchell

American-born artist Joan Mitchell is one of the best known artists of her generation. For many decades, Joan Mitchell was the toast of the art world, and even more than 20 years after her death, she continues to influence new generations of creative men and women.


Born in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, Joan Mitchell was educated at Smith College, Columbia University and the Art Institute of Chicago. Primarily known as a painter, Joan Mitchell was also an accomplished printmaker.


Throughout her long career, Joan Mitchell was most closely associated with the Abstract Expressionism movement. More specifically, Joan Mitchell was generally known as a second generation American abstract expressionist.


Even though she is most closely associated with the American school of abstract expressionism, Joan Mitchell spent much of her career in France, where she worked alongside such luminaries as Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaier, Sonia Gechtoff and Grace Hartigan.


Joan Mitchell was also one of just a handful of female painters and printmakers to gain critical acclaim and commercial success during her lifetime. The success of her painting was very much an anomaly, and further proof of the quality of her work.


These days, the prints and paintings of Joan Mitchell can be seen around the world, from the best museums around the globe to the high-end galleries that cater to serious art collectors. Her collections are on view throughout Europe, as well as the United States, and even though she died in 1992, her star continues to rise.


This icon of the American abstract expressionism movement was born in Chicago. She was the daughter of poet Marion Strobel Mitchell and a dermatologist father by the name of Herbert Mitchell. She attended high school in Chicago, and later studied art at the famous Art Institute of Chicago.


Joan Mitchell also studied at prestigious Smith College, and she moved to Manhatttan after graduating from school. While she had always wanted to study at the school run by Hans Hoffmann, she attended just one class before leaving. Upon her departure, Joan Mitchell expressed worry that she had not understood the instruction, but she went on to have a long and storied career nevertheless.


Joan Mitchell bounced back from her disappointment quickly, earning a travel fellowship that allowed her to continue her studies in Paris, France. While in Europe, Joan Mitchell also traveled extensively through Italy and Spain, soaking up the local culture and learning more about the history of the art world and modern forms of artistic expression.


Joan Mitchell is widely recognized as a major figure in the second generation of American abstract expressionism, and she enjoyed great success throughout the 1950s and beyond. During the decade of the 1950s, Joan Mitchell was known as the leading artist in the New York school, and the influences of her peers was clearly evident in her own work.


Among those influences were Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Franz Kline, Vincent van Gogh, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Willem de Koonig. While building on their work, Joan Mitchell would eventually take her unique form of abstract expressionism to whole new heights, earning her a place atop the American art scene of the day.


During her time atop the art world, Joan Mitchell became known for her large and expansive works. Those works often encompassed a pair of panels, and they focused on landscape elements and the beauty of nature. Unlike some of her peers, Joan Mitchell generally painted directly onto an unprimed piece of canvas. Her brushwork tended to be almost violent in its scope, and that unique style is clear even to the casual observer of her works.


By the end of the 1950s, Joan Mitchell's work had changed, and she moved from the bright primary colors of her previous paintings to more subdued and somber tones. These dense and darkly beautiful works are among her best, and they can be found in museums around the world.


Joan Mitchell began launching major museum exhibitions in the early 1970s, and she continued to be a productive artist throughout the rest of her life. Although she died in the early 1990s, Joan Mitchell continues to be a strong influence on the artists of today, raising awareness of the abstract expressionist movement and serving as an example for aspiring artists in America and around the world.

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