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    "Feeling, existing, living, I think it’s all the same, except for quality. Existing is survival; it does not necessarily mean feeling…Feeling is something more: it’s feeling your existence. It’s not just survival. Painting is a means of feeling living."
    —Joan Mitchell

     

     

    The present work installed at Joan Mitchell, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, June 3 – July 14, 1992, Image: © J. Hyde, Artwork: © Estate of Joan Mitchell

    The present work installed at Joan Mitchell, Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, June 3 – July 14, 1992

     

    Painted in the final year of Joan Mitchell’s celebrated career, Untitled is a ravishing embodiment of the remarkable vitality of the artist’s late paintings that ultimately encapsulate the entire course of her career. From bold vertical streaks to dancing ribbons of pigment, darkly luminous swaths to delicate wispy color, the present work showcases Mitchell’s mature sensibility of coalescing the disparate influences through her life that shaped her own singular painterly language with unprecedented liberation. Just months before her death in October 1992, the present work was exhibited in one of Mitchell’s last solo shows during her lifetime at the Galerie Jean Fournier in Paris from June to July that year.

     

     

    Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1916-1919. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

    Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1916-1919. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

     

    Though the expressionist style of New York School spearheads such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline shaped Mitchell’s gestural vocabulary, her lifelong admiration for the French Impressionists—particularly Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne—would burst forth onto the canvases of her final decade with extraordinary dynamism. Channeling those artists’ apprehension of abstraction more than ever before, Mitchell conjured exuberant landscapes and flowers, evocative atmospheres and states of mind through visual explosions of color.

     

    "The paintings that Joan Mitchell created in the last decade of her life reveal an artist who showed no restraint…her fondness for a palette of blue, green, orange, black, and white, together with her personal vocabulary of choppy vertical smears, washes of pastel hues, slashed aggressive strokes, loops of joyful color...all of her favorite colors and a combination of the styles of gesture she had developed during the previous thirty years."
    —Richard D. Marshall

     

     

    Vincent van Gogh, The Garden of the Hospital at Saint-Rémy, 1889. Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany, Image: HIP / Art Resource, NY [right] Henri Matisse, Landscape at Collioure, 1905. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Vincent van Gogh, The Garden of the Hospital at Saint-Rémy, 1889. Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany, Image: HIP / Art Resource, NY

     

    Redolent of the darkly luminous hues often seen throughout van Gogh’s late landscapes and Monet’s uninhibited, near-abstract water lilies by the end of his life, the present composition also recalls Henri Matisse's Fauvist use of color in his landscapes, such as Landscape at Collioure, 1905. “All I wanted to do was paint,” Mitchell recalled. “I was so and still I am in such adulation of great painters...I wanted to put on paint like Matisse.”i Like a similar example residing at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the present work further features a striking reverb with the dynamically rhythmic compositions of Wassily Kandinsky, whose work inspired Mitchell since her early years particularly in line, gesture, and form.

     

     

    [left] Wassily Kandinsky, Composition in Red and Black, 1920. State Museum of Art, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris [right] Franz Kline, Blueberry Eyes, 1959-1960. Smithsonian American Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., Image: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    [left] Wassily Kandinsky, Composition in Red and Black, 1920. State Museum of Art, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris [right] Franz Kline, Blueberry Eyes, 1959-1960. Smithsonian American Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., Image: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

     

    In Untitled, the sweeping, rich blue vertical slashes at center alert to the elongated tree forms she had explored through the early 1990s, with the spherical clusters of horizontal brushstrokes at right recalling her bundles of sunflowers. In her last paintings of 1992, as Sarah Roberts observed, “Mitchell pared down sunflower and tree figures and placed them eloquently in fields of white canvas. No longer memories of views or captured feelings of the natural world in her grandeur, they are declarations of identity…With the sparest of means, these paintings crystallize her central concerns at the end of her life. They are about her...beauty, and death, but convey far more. Singular and uncategorizable, they are neither abstraction nor representation, but beyond both.”ii

     

     

    Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1992. Centre Pompidou, Paris (on deposit to Musée de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse), Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Estate of Joan Mitchell

    Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1992. Centre Pompidou, Paris (on deposit to Musée de Brou, Bourg-en-Bresse), Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Estate of Joan Mitchell

     

    The present work masterfully demonstrates the deep influence of pastel on Mitchell’s painterly practice and its forceful manifestations on her final canvases. “For a time I didn’t work and then I did a lot of pastels which in a way freed me. Some of them inspired me to do a different, I don’t know if it is called subject matter or whatever you call it to paint pictures.”iii Drawn to the seductive color, textures, and immediacy of the medium, Mitchell translated the bold chromatic brilliance and flexible mark-making she found with pastel into her last paintings, employing a wider range of colors than in any period of her oeuvre before. As the boldly saturated colors of her pastel box made their way into paint, so did her compositions on paper make their way onto the canvas, as a firework of calligraphic lines appears to burst from the center of an unassuming white background.

     

     

     

     

    Mitchell’s virtuosic, vigorous handling, along with her fearlessness with color as exemplified in Untitled, reflects her vital drive to ambitiously paint above all despite her declining health through a kind of passionate elegy. “The intimations of mortality are, however, bright and full of particulars,” John Ashbery expressed, “and lead to the truly magisterial work of her last years, in which all the levels of achievement seen so far are captured, celebrated and expanded, in pictures of enormous freedom and authority.”iv In this explosive valedictory, Mitchell revels in the visual expression of her words, “I am alive, we are alive, we are not away of what is coming next.”v

     

     

    Joan Mitchell in the garden at La Tour, Vétheuil, 1991. Image: Joan Mitchell Foundation

    Joan Mitchell in the garden at La Tour, Vétheuil, 1991. Image: David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

     

    Stanley Whitney on Joan Mitchell

     

    Stanley Whitney reflects on the artist’s remarkable career on the occasion of the concurrent major retrospective on Joan Mitchell currently at the San Francisco Museum of Art, September 4, 2021 – January 17, 2022 (traveling to the Baltimore Museum of Art, March 6 – August 14, 2022 and to Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris in Fall 2022).

     

     

     

     

    Collector’s Digest

     

    San Francisco Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Paris, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Joan Mitchell Retrospective, September 4, 2021 – Fall 2022

     

    •    The present work arrives to auction amidst the comprehensive, global retrospective of Joan Mitchell’s work, signaling the reconsideration of the artist's oeuvre along with the pantheon of leading female Abstract Expressionists whose contributions have been revisited in recent years.


    •    A rare-to-market opportunity, Untitled is only one of four paintings from the last year of Joan Mitchell’s life to ever arrive at auction thus far.

     

    i Joan Mitchell, quoted in Yves Michaud, "Conversations with Joan Mitchell, January 12, 1986," in Joan Mitchell: New Paintings, exh. cat., Xavier Fourcade, New York, 1986, n.p.
    ii Sarah Roberts, “Painting,” in Joan Mitchell, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2020, p. 309.
    iii Joan Mitchell, transcript of an interview with Yves Michaud, n.d. [August 7, 1989], with Mitchell’s edits, quoted in Sarah Roberts, “Painting,” in Joan Mitchell, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2020, p. 304.
    iv John Ashbery, Joan Mitchell 1992, New York, 1993, n.p.
    v Joan Mitchell, quoted in Patricia Albers, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter, New York, 2011, p. 184.

    • Provenance

      Estate of the Artist
      Robert Miller Gallery, New York (acquired in 1993)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Jean Fournier, Joan Mitchell, June 3 – July 14, 1992
      Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, Joan Mitchell, September 11 - December 14, 1997, p. 95 (illustrated, p. 93)
      Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Deadline, October 16, 2009 – January 10, 2010, no. 71, p. 199 (illustrated, p. 103)

    • Literature

      Catherine Flohic, "Art des Années 90/Art in the 90's: Joan Mitchell,” Ninety Magazine, no. 10, 1993, p. 63 (illustrated)
      La couleur toujours recommencée: Hommage à Jean Fournier, marchand à Paris (1922–2006), exh. cat., Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 2007, p. 194 (installation view Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, 1992, illustrated)
      Galerie Jean Fournier, exh. cat., Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, 2016, p. 11 (installation view Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, 1992, illustrated)

    • 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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Property of an Important Private Collector

8

Untitled

signed "Joan Mitchell" lower right
oil on canvas
110 x 78 3/4 in. (279.4 x 200 cm)
Painted in 1992.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $11,870,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021