Urgent Museum Notice

Joan Mitchell

A black-and-white studio portrait of a light-skinned older woman with dark bobbed hair. She wears sunglasses, a light-colored turtleneck sweater, a striped scarf, and a watch. She stands with arms folded and holding a lit cigarette between her left index and middle fingers.

Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Courtesy of the photographer, greenfieldsanders.com


Influenced by her mother’s work as coeditor of Poetry magazine and by authors such as T.S. Eliot who came to visit, Mitchell first considered a career in writing. After studying English literature for a time, she focused instead on painting, earning her advanced degree from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1950, she moved to New York and began exhibiting her work to considerable acclaim.  Mitchell’s use of gestural, energetic brushwork to portray her subjective responses to the natural world complemented the Abstract Expressionist style that held sway at the time.

Despite her growing success as a member of the group, the artist began spending time in France and eventually settled there permanently. After nine years in Paris, Mitchell moved to a country house in Vétheuil in 1968.

She continued making large, multipart canvases, had several major retrospectives of her work, and received three honorary doctorates. In 1982, Mitchell became the first American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Joan Mitchell
  • Birth

    Chicago, 1925
  • Death

    Paris, 1992
  • Phonetic Spelling

    joh-n MIH-chuhl

Works by Joan Mitchell

Sale Neige

Joan Mitchell extended the scope of abstract-expressionist painting by applying it to the subject of nature. Like most of her works, Sale Neige (Dirty Snow) signifies Mitchell’s memories of or feelings for the landscape. The work may be an evocation of childhood memories of her home in Chicago or a reflection upon the feelings of isolation that the winter landscape can intensify.


A vertical, abstraction features broadly painted strokes of pale gray, lavender, and cobalt in the upper two-thirds of the canvas. The colors continue in the lower third, along with touches of green, black, and other hues, but the expressive brushwork becomes denser and chaotic.

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