Joan Mitchell - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Green hues dance energetically across two canvases in Joan Mitchell’s 1975 painting Untitled. Intimately scaled, the present work is a precious example of the artist’s prodigious abstract technique.  Signed and dedicated “To Elga Merry Christmas love Joan” on the back, Untitled was painted as a Christmas gift by Mitchell to her dear friend and fellow artist, Elga Henzein. The friendship between these two women grew over many years, both residing in the French commune of Vétheuil, just short of 40 miles northwest of Paris. Heinzen served as a central support for Mitchell across difficult periods of her life including bouts of illness and the death of her beloved German shepherds. It is noted in the artist’s biography, by Patricia Albers, that Heinzen was amongst the “lady painters” in attendance of a celebration Mitchell threw upon being deemed “Cancer free” in 1985.i Originally from Switzerland, Heinzen now lives in Paris where she practices sculpture.
    "I did not experience grief until 1992, when I lost Joan Mitchell. We were very close"
    —Elga Heinzenii

    Claude Monet, Agapanthus. 1914-26, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY


    "Remembered Landscapes"

    Mitchell, a Chicago native, spent the early years of her career in New York City before moving abroad to Europe.  After eight years in Paris, the artist moved to Vétheuil in 1967 where she lived and worked until her death in 1992.  Situated on two acres of land, Mitchell’s countryside residence was close to the village of Giverny where Claude Monet once lived in a gardener’s cottage. It was here that Mitchell delved deep into nature as way of informing her abstract canvases. The expansiveness of the countryside saw her works play out across multiple surfaces, including diptychs, like this work, triptychs, and polyptychs.  Though rooted in nature, Mitchell’s work prefers to evoke the feelings it elicits rather than explicitly depict it.  She discloses, “I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me - and remembered feelings of them, which of course become transformed. I could certainly never mirror nature. I would like more to paint what it leaves me with.”iii The Abstract Expressionist mode of painting employed by Mitchell confirms such sentiment, erring on the side of representation. Brushstroke mindfully layered upon brushstroke, Mitchell creates a dialogue between movement and tone ranging from darker pine greens to sage grey greens with accents of plum and white.  We may compare such color and movement to that of mid-season greenery drifting with the wind.
    "From the little balcony outside her kitchen, Joan Mitchell can see down the hill to Monet's house."
    —Deborah Solomoniv


    Untitled was painted the year following the artist’s preeminent show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and just before her first solo show at Xavier Fourcade, New York. Painted at the peak of her artistic career, the present work illustrates Mitchell’s refinement of style and craft, fully realized by the 1970s. In color and composition, this work resembles some of the artist’s most celebrated masterpieces, such as her 1977 painting Posted, owned by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. In conjunction with Mitchell’s celebrated traveling retrospective and the recent opening of the Monet - Mitchell exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in early October, the sale of Untitled offers a unique glimpse into the artist’s life and practice. 


    i Patricia Albers, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter a Life, New York, 2011, p. 382.
    ii Elga Heinzen, quoted in "Entretien: Elga Heinzen and Hélène Lhote," Elga Heinzen: La Permanence du Pli, 2011, online

    iii Joan Mitchell quoted in, Judith E. Bernstock, Joan Mitchell, New York, 1988, p. 31.
    iv Deborah Solomon, “In Monet’s Light,” The New York Times, November 24, 1991, online

    • Provenance

      Elga Heinzen, Switzerland (gifted by the artist)
      Private Collection, Paris
      Phillips, London, October 20, 2020, lot 22
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner



signed and dedicated “To Elga Merry Christmas love Joan Joan Mitchell” on the left stretcher; signed “Joan Mitchell” on the right stretcher
oil on canvas, diptych
each 18 1/4 x 15 in. (46.4 x 38.1 cm)
overall 18 1/4 x 30 in. (46.4 x 76.2 cm)

Painted in 1975.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $567,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022