Joan Mitchell - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist; Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, Contemporary Art, November 10, 2004, lot 144; Acquired above from the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Art In Residence, October 1973 – January 1974

  • Catalogue Essay

    Feeling is something more; it’s feeling your existence. It’s not just survival. Painting is a means of feeling “living”…


    (Joan Mitchell in conversation with Yves Michaud reproduced in “Conversations with Joan Mitchell,” Joan Mitchell: New Paintings, 1986)

    Gouise is an impressive example of Mitchell’s work of the 1960s when her move to the French countryside produced a dramatic shift in the direction and scope of her paintings. The self-proclaimed “last Abstract Expressionist” Mitchell is well-known for the compositional rhythms, bold coloration and sweeping gestural brushstrokes of her large and often multipaneled paintings. Inspired by landscape, nature and poetry, her intent was not to create a recognizable image but to convey emotions.

    Mitchell studied at The Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York in the late 1940s where she became the youngest member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, enjoying the support of artists such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. In 1959 Mitchell moved to Paris from New York and summered in various Mediterranean locations over the next several years. In 1967, she purchased an estate in Vétheuil, the same country town where Claude Monet had lived and painted from 1878 to 1881, and she moved there permanently in 1968. There, inspired by her new surroundings, she
    developed a highly personal painterly style — reflected in the stunning vibrancy and exuberance of Gouise, and in her other work from the period.

    In Gouise, bold and exuberant colors predominate and Mitchell’s brushwork is thicker and broader across the picture plane. As a result color becomes form, highly reminiscent of landscape features and gardens, and these forms press toward the outer edges of the canvas, almost bursting forth from the surface. The harmony of the colors with the white highlights produces a stunning optical brilliance, once again proving Mitchell to be a master in the dramatic manipulation of colors and spatial relationships to evoke the impression of light dancing off the surface of water or foliage.

    In discussing the paintings of 1967 and citing the present work specifically, Judith Bernstock noted the pivotal importance of the paintings of this year to Mitchell’s oeuvre. ``Even before her move to Vétheuil, the idyllic setting that she knew from weekend visits in the summer of 1967 effected a change in Mitchell’s paintings.... A dense web of painterly strokes, drips, and generally circular shapes of intense reds, greens, ochers and blues covers almost the entire surfaces of paintings such as Russian Easter, Woods/Country, Gouise, and My Landscape II. Her rejection of the emphasis on flatness, and the ‘all over’ approach to composition, that was prevalent, she preferred to retain more traditional sense of figure and ground in her pictures.”

    A poet’s painter, Joan Mitchell was a lifelong reader of William Wordsworth, John Clare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Rainer Maria Rilke. During her time in New York she befriended key figures of the then emerging New York School of poetry (James Schuyler, Frank O’Hara, and John Ashbery), while in France she came to know Samuel Beckett and Jacques Dupin. Like these writers, Mitchell expresses through her painting a complex interplay of emotion, memory, and sense of place. In the color, brushwork, and structure of her paintings Mitchell can easily stand alongside the giants of French painting: Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Matisse.

  • Artist Biography

    Joan Mitchell

    Known for her highly emotive gestural abstraction, Joan Mitchell was one of the most prominent members of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Mitchell painted highly structured, large-scale compositions featuring vibrant, violent bursts of color and light, often influenced by landscape painting and informed by her emotional understanding of the world around her. Mitchell was one of the only female artists of her generation to achieve critical and public acclaim, and her work was featured in the famous Ninth Street Show of 1951, which introduced the world to the emerging American avant-garde. 

    Mitchell was a devoted student of art as well as a talented painter; she developed an intimate understanding of color through her admiration of the work of Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh and adapted the gestural abstraction of her day to create an art form completely her own, and continued her investigation of abstraction for the rest of her career. Her work has influenced subsequent generations of artists and is featured in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and many of the world’s most distinguished institutions. 

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Oil on canvas.
76 1/2 x 44 3/4 in. (194.3 x 113.8 cm.)
Signed “Mitchell” twice on the reverse.

$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $1,874,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York