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Joan Mitchell Artworks

American Painter and Printmaker

Joan Mitchell Photo
Movements and Styles: Abstract Expressionism, Action Painting

Born: February 12, 1925 - Chicago, Illinois

Died: October 30, 1992 - Vetheuil, France

Artworks by Joan Mitchell

The below artworks are the most important by Joan Mitchell - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Untitled (1951)

Untitled (1951)

Untitled (1951) was one of the seminal works in Joan Mitchell's first solo exhibition at The New Gallery in New York City in 1952. Paul Brach's review announced, "The debut of this young painter marks the appearance of a new personality in abstract painting. Miss Mitchell's huge canvases are post-Cubist in their precise articulation of spatial intervals, yet they remain close in spirit to American Abstract Expressionism in their explosive impact."

City Landscape (1955)

City Landscape (1955)

Informed by an urban energy, City Landscape is an iconic example of Mitchell's early work. The tension between the horizontal brushstrokes of vibrant color in the center with the surrounding whites exemplifies her use of the figure-ground relationship. The work also demonstrates her debt to Philip Guston, whose Abstract Expressionist work was often likened to Impressionism.

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Hemlock (1956)

Hemlock (1956)

Mitchell's paintings are striking in their sheer physicality. She used bold and active strokes of paint on large canvases. In Hemlock, her use of cool whites interplays with the horizontal lines of green and black and gives the sense of an evergreen in the winter.

Tilleul (1978)

Tilleul (1978)

Tilleul is one of Mitchell's most direct examples of landscape abstractions. In French, telleul is a linden tree, and Mitchell created a group of paintings inspired by the tree in front of her home in Vetheuil, France. Not a representation, the dense vertical strokes of paint evoke the essence of tree branches reaching upward.

La Grande Vallee XIV (For a Little While) (1983)

La Grande Vallee XIV (For a Little While) (1983)

La Grande Vallee paintings are an outstanding group of 21 large-scale works created over the span of just one year. Uniquely conceived as a whole or unit, the paintings created a lush and poetic environment when exhibited together. The Grand Valley refers to a story of a secret place or private haven and relates to Mitchell's grief over the deaths of her sister and a good friend.

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Bracket (1989)

Bracket (1989)

A striking 15 feet wide, Bracket is a magnificent example of Mitchell's late work. Known for creating large works, her use of two or more panels allowed her to create monumental works of art. She used the interplay between panels as a compositional tool, like paragraphs or stanzas in a poem.

Related Artists and Major Works

Excavation (1950)

Artist: Willem de Kooning (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Even as he returned to figuration in the late 1940s, he embarked on another abstraction, Excavation at the same time. Just over six-and-a-half-feet tall and eight-feet wide, Excavation is not as monumental as some later Abstract Expressionist paintings, but it is the biggest painting de Kooning ever made. The pictorial space de Kooning depicted on the canvas was closely tied to his own embodied sense of space in the physical world. In a talk he wrote for the Artists' Club, de Kooning explained, "If I stretch my arms next to the rest of myself and wonder where my fingers are - that is all the space I need as a painter." In other words, de Kooning's canvases are born at the fullest extension of his arms, where his fingers hold the brush that touches the canvases. To move beyond this scale one risks losing the human intimacy of the space.

The bulk of the surface is covered with dirty white, cream, and yellowish shapes outlined with black and gray lines. Throughout the canvas, one sees passages of crimson, blue, magenta, gold, and aqua. The effect is an all-over composition with no single point of entry and which draws the viewer's eyes across the entirety of the canvas. No one section stands out a more important or less interesting than another. That being said, one does see something of a ground line at the bottom of the edge of the painting and a rectangle that evokes a door or a window. Just as the composition seems to expand beyond the edges of the canvas, de Kooning brings the viewer back to a threshold, suggesting a particular place and time, grounding them in the present. Harold Rosenberg commented on the painting, "For all the protracted agitation that produced it, Excavation was a classical painting, majestic and distant, like a formula wrung out of testing explosives. If, as de Kooning liked to say, the artist function by 'getting into the canvas' and working his way out again, this masterpiece had seen him not only depart but close the door behind him."

Last Piece (1958)

Artist: Philip Guston (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Last Piece is not Guston's last Abstract Expressionist painting, but it represents a transition away from the shimmering forms of the early 1950s towards the recognizable motifs of his later, more figurative works. If Buddhism, and concepts of nothingness, had informed his earlier abstractions, this represents a move away from those inspirations.

The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944)

The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944)

Artist: Arshile Gorky (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Though abstract to a great degree, this work nevertheless reveals Gorky's fondness for organic forms loosely based in nature and the sumptuous colors that would prove to be essential to his mature style. The work of Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky, as well as that of Joan Miro and Roberto Matta (who in 1942 suggested that Gorky use more turpentine to loosen up the paint) provided strong influences on Gorky's painting practice. In 1945, Andre Breton, the author of the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, praised this painting for its combination of nature and reality, filtered through memory and feeling. The scholar Harry Rand has discussed the content of this picture at length, pointing out the rooster-headed figure with the feathered groin at the right as the vain fool. Rand explains that the liver was once thought of as the seat of the passions (love and lust), thus punning on the "cock's comb" part of the title, and could also be construed as "one who lives," therefore asserting that life itself is vanity and all in vain.


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