Joan Mitchell
American abstract expressionist painter and printmaker



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Joan Mitchell
American abstract expressionist painter and printmaker
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Birth Date

February 12, 1925

Death Date

October 30, 1992

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Joan Mitchell was one of very few female abstract expressionists (she sometimes distinguished herself as a “lady painter”), but she ran with the best of them in New York.

Her gang included Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, and other fellas who were known as “The Club”. They could often be found lurking around at Greenwich Village’s Cedar Tavern, a notorious hangout for beatniks and painters.

Mitchell came from a wealthy Chicago family, so she never struggled much as a “starving artist.” That’s not to diminish her talent, though. Allegedly, she was both far sighted (explains all the blobs?) and also had synesthesia, a sensory condition that results in powerful associations between colors, sounds, and other stimuli. Some people might experience such things as quirky nuisances, but these could be amazing superpowers for an abstract painter!

In 1959 she moved from NYC to France with her lover, French Canadian painter/race car driver (swoon) Jean-Paul Riopelle. The famously cranky art critic Clement Greenberg warned her not to go, but she did it anyway, and she and Jean-Paul proceeded to have a real bad romance for about a quarter of a century. In the end, he left her for another woman and then she made angry paintings about it. When she died, he made sad paintings about it.

Her contributions to Modern art are important, which is maybe why she got away with being not the nicest person and also kind of a drunk. Acquaintances and scholars have described her as rude, belligerent, brusque, and lonely, too. You gotta wonder if she’d be talked about differently were she a man. But she had a soft side, too. She regularly hosted emerging artists at her home near Giverny, and said sensitive things like, “‘Sunflowers are something I feel very intensely. They look so wonderful when young and they are so moving when they are dying…”

Oh, and, no relation to Joni Mitchell.



  1. Albers, Patricia. “Joan Mitchell: Painting as Cathedral.” Synesthesia: Art and the Mind. 2008. Accessed July 21, 2017.
  2. “Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings.” Hauser & Wirth. Accessed 7/28/17.
  3. “Joan Mitchell,” Cheim and Read. Accessed July 21, 2017.
  4. “Joan Mitchell.” Joan Mitchell Foundation. Accessed July 21, 2017.
  5. Perrault, John. “The Six Sins of Joan Mitchell.” Artopia. August 19, 2014. Accessed July 21, 2017.
  6. “Riopelle, jean-paul.” Galerie d’Art Chateau Frontenac. Accessed July 21, 2017.
  7. Schjeldahl, Peter. “Tough Love. Resurrecting Joan Mitchell.” The New Yorker. July 15, 2002. Accessed July 21, 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell (February 12, 1925 – October 30, 1992) was an American "second generation" abstract expressionist painter and printmaker. She was a member of the American abstract expressionist movement, even though much of her career took place in France. Along with Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Shirley Jaffe, Elaine de Kooning, and Sonia Gechtoff, she was one of her era's few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim. Her paintings and editioned prints can be seen in major museums and collections across the United States and Europe.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Joan Mitchell.