Belonging to the post-war New York School of Action painters, Joan Mitchell distinguished herself among her contemporaries as an accomplished printmaker.
Mitchell made prints throughout almost every stage of her career up until her death. With Tyler Graphics and its founder Kenneth Tyler in the early 1990s, Mitchell embarked on the most innovative and ambitious prints of her oeuvre. Kenneth Tyler first persuaded Joan Mitchell to make lithographs with him in the early 1980s, urging that her paintings could be translated beautifully into lithography. She completed her first suite of lithographs with Tyler in 1981, titled the Bedford Series, and thereafter a fruitful relationship was born.
Mitchell's explosive mark-making meets the ethereal quality of paper, creating prints that are at once free-flowing while contained within the margins.
Joan Mitchell Bedford I, from Bedford Series, 1981. Lot 210 in our Editions & Works on Paper Day Sale on 25 October in New York.
The lithographs of the Bedford Series (lot 210 in Editions & Works on Paper), 1981, and later Sunflower Series (lot 23), 1992, embrace the very nature of the medium. The greasiness, oiliness and rubbings of lithographic crayon and tusche become as much the subject of these works as her gestural brushstrokes embody the emotional resonance of her paintings.
Joan Mitchell and Kenneth Tyler surrounded by numerous prints by Mitchell on the walls, floors and table, Tyler Graphics Ltd. artist's studio, Mount Kisco, New York, 1992, Photographer: Marabeth Cohen-Tyler National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Kenneth Tyler, 2002
Sunflowers II, from the Sunflower Series, presents a pictorial achievement in Mitchell's oeuvre. Here, Mitchell combined deep rich tones with gestural marks that greatly echo the ethos of her career. Through color and line, disordered bouquets of sunflowers appear and again disappear to the viewer. Joan Mitchell's electric gestural prints were deliberate and considered. She worked on clear mylar sheets of color separation, revising until the composition was as she wanted. In Sunflowers II, Mitchell's explosive mark-making meets the ethereal quality of paper, creating prints that are at once free-flowing while contained within the margins.
Tyler Graphics allowed Mitchell to work in more colors than ever before, creating richly colored works that rivaled the more subdued hues of the prints she had produced in years before. Tyler was flexible, and Mitchell precise: "Ken," she said to him in the studio, "I want to try a color like the color of dying sunflowers."
"Color, and, in particular, the color blue, was often discussed in great detail during my printmaking collaborations with Joan," said Kenneth Tyler. "Her studies of Matisse, van Gogh, Cézanne and Monet...led to a mastery of color unparalleled by her contemporaries. I never worked with anyone since [Josef] Albers that had such a keen knowledge of color and how colors interacted with each other. Joan's works are about the colors in life as she observed and recorded them…"
Kenneth Tyler and Joan Mitchell with working proofs of Mitchell's 'Sunflowers II' as well as 'Fields', 'Trees' and 'Weeds' hanging in the background. Tyler Graphics Ltd. artist's studio, Mount Kisco, New York, 1991, photo by Marabeth COHEN-TYLERKenneth Tyler and Joan Mitchell with proofs of Mitchell's 'Fields', 'Trees' and 'Weeds' works hanging in the background, Tyler Graphics Ltd. artist's studio, Mount Kisco, New York, 1991, photo by Marabeth COHEN-TYLER