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  • Provenance

    The Estate of Joan Mitchell
    Cheim & Read, New York
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Prefiguring her celebrated La Grande Vallée series that would follow two years later, 1981’s Untitled finds Joan Mitchell in a burst of creative achievement,
    typical of her mature years. Mitchell began her wonderfully industrious career under the tutelage of the masters of the New York School, including Willem de
    Kooning and Franz Kline. As she developed her signature style in the 1950s, the inspirations for her emotion-filled canvases often had their origins in Mitchell’s
    own imagination. While many Expressionists chose to employ environmental objects as subjects then strove to obfuscate the representational elements
    therein, Mitchell’s process was the opposite. She aimed to fully illustrate the world within: “Mitchell’s compositions…were almost always informed by
    imagined landscapes or feelings about places…Some of her most ambitiously scaled paintings turn out to combine associations both to landscape and to
    specific relationships.” (J. Livingston. “The Paintings of Joan Michell”, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell, Edited by Jane Livingston, New York, 2002, p. 41).

    In the present lot, Mitchell displays her many layerings of paint in beautifully characteristic form, rendering a field of bright oranges and autumnal yellows
    over an undergrowth of deep blues and aquamarines. In the end, Mitchell’s picture, though it lacks any narrative figures, suggests the beauty of a
    wilting garden, thriving yet fading into the cooler months. Mitchell’s intimate canvas gives us a unique look at the artist’s later years, where her gradually
    deteriorating physical abilities allowed her special reason to examine the underlying beauty in all waning things: “Painting is the opposite of death, it
    permits one to survive, it also permits one to live” (Joan Mitchell, quoted in Joan Mitchell: Choix de peintures 1970-1982, Paris, 1982, np).

  • 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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31

Untitled

1981
oil on canvas
31 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. (80.6 x 60.3 cm)

Estimate
$350,000 - 450,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

7 November 2011
New York