Inside the Art Studio of Joan Mitchell

A photo of Joan Mitchell standing in her painting studio


Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois, and studied at the Chicago Art Institute, honing her skills for abstract painting and printmaking. Mitchell is widely remembered as a member of the American abstract expressionist movement of the mid 20th century, despite the fact that for much of her career she lived in France. 


Mitchell’s studio space looks basic in this photo; almost utilitarian. I don’t see much else in the room aside from the artist herself, and a whole bunch of paintings in a wide variety of sizes. Mitchell’s painting style was highly abstract, highly gestural, so I would almost expect to see more in the way of paint splatter -- on the walls, or on the floor. Perhaps the artist did the actual work of painting in another area of the studio, keeping this part as a storage space for completed paintings. 


I’m surprised by the scale of the visible paintings, compared to the smaller size of the paintings stacked with their surfaces to the wall, to the artist’s right in this image. Perhaps these smaller paintings were studies or sketches, turned away since they were finished, or since the paintings that they were made in preparation for were finished.  


Throughout her painting career, Mitchell was influenced by the aesthetics and compositional structure of traditional landscape painting. While at first it might be difficult to find the elements of landscape in one of her wildly gestural abstracts, at a closer glance many of the artist’s compositions follow a distinct horizon line, and the artist’s palette often suggested foliage and sky.

[image source]

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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