JOAN MITCHELL was born in Chicago on February 12, 1925. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947, she was awarded a James Nelson Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship, which took her to France for a year in 1948–49. There, her paintings moved toward abstraction. Upon her return to New York she participated in the famous “9th Street Show” in 1951. Mitchell soon established a reputation as one of the leading younger American Abstract Expressionist painters and exhibited regularly in New York throughout the next four decades. Throughout her life she maintained close friendships with many New York School painters and poets.
In 1955 Mitchell began dividing her time between New York and France. In 1968 she settled in Vétheuil, a small town in the countryside outside of Paris, where she worked continuously until her death in 1992. During the almost 50 years of her painting life, as Abstract Expressionism was eclipsed by successive styles, Mitchell’s commitment to the tenets of gestural abstraction remained firm and uncompromising.
Klaus Kertess shared with The Joan Mitchell Foundation, “She transformed the gestural painterliness of Abstract Expressionism into a vocabulary so completely her own that it could become ours as well. And her total absorption of the lessons of Matisse and van Gogh led to a mastery of color inseparable from the movement of light and paint. Her ability to reflect the flow of her consciousness in that of nature, and in paint, is all but unparalleled.”
Mitchell was awarded Le Grand Prix des Arts (Peinture) of the city of Paris (1991); the Award for Painting, French Ministry of Culture (1989); Honorary Doctorate, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1987); the Brandeis University Creative Arts Awards, Citation in Painting (1973); Honorary Doctorate, The Western College, Oxford, Ohio (1971); Premio Lissone (Lissone Prize), Milan (1961); and the James Nelson Raymond Foreign Traveling Fellowship from the Art Institute of Chicago (1947).
Mitchell died in Paris on October 30, 1992 at the age of 67.