Lot 43
  • 43

Joan Mitchell

Estimate
2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
Sold
2,517,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Joan Mitchell
  • No Room at the End
  • oil on canvas, in two parts

Provenance

Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York
Graham Gund, Cambridge, Massachusetts (acquired from the above in December 1977)
Sotheby's, New York, May 2, 1985, Lot 50
Edward Minskoff, New York
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Robert Schimier, Palm Beach
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Sotheby's, New York, November 12, 2003, Lot 57
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., Joan Mitchell, New Paintings 1977, December 1977 - January 1978
New York, Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., Joan Mitchell Selected Paintings 1975-1977, April - May 1997
Victoria, Texas, Nave Museum, Joan Mitchell: From Nature to Abstraction, September - November 1998
New York, Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, Memory Abstracted, June - August 2002

Catalogue Note

No Room at the End, an ambitious painting spanning two panels from 1977, is archetypal of Joan Mitchell’s passionate and inspired artistic method. Prodigious in scale at over twelve feet wide and nine feet high, the present work displays a surface replete with a fascinating confluence of densely layered brushstrokes, gravity laden drips, vibrant hues, and exposed canvas. Mitchell’s steadfast and focused artistic vision, for which she received admiration during her lifetime, has continued to be extolled posthumously due to her distinctive blend of abstraction. Powerfully combining allusions to nature, deep and familiar emotions, and the physicality of painting, Mitchell’s canvases are a supreme amalgamation of Cézanne’s Impressionist brushstrokes, Pollock’s Expressionist vitality, and her own life circumstances.

Joan Mitchell’s career, like that of one of her great influences, Claude Monet, was a lasting one. Her oeuvre grew, changed and flourished over the course of her life whilst remaining persistently true to her unique aesthetic. Beginning as a young woman in New York in the midst of 1950s Abstract Expressionist culture, Mitchell carved her place in art history alongside contemporaries such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Simultaneously deeply influenced by the techniques of her male counterparts, and fiercely independent in her own artistic vision, Mitchell gained early recognition and respect. No Room at the End showcases a technical dichotomy of fundamental importance to Mitchell’s art: the two canvases are populated by a mesmerizing mixture of thick, emotive swathes of paint and looser, more spontaneous drips and strokes. The result is a composition evocative of the greatness of both de Kooning and Pollock. Vertical bands of pigment, in colors that span the spectrum from black, through cerulean blue and green, to vibrant orange and yellow, form a mosaic across the two panels. This broad range of hues provides an illusion of depth that is otherwise denied by Mitchell’s insistence on abstraction. Each stroke retains its autonomy whilst corresponding to a larger cohesive image. Carrying across the diptych, the black strokes develop into a singular undulating mass, while the staggered and spare blue of the left panel seems to explode into a flurry of activity when it crosses over to the right. The result is an endlessly engrossing visual experience wherein our eye is encouraged to weave through the myriad textures and hues that compose this dynamic work.

Joan Mitchell embarked upon her artistic training in 1947 at the Art Institute of Chicago where she was exposed both to the Impressionist teachings of her professors and to the wide array of works in the Art Institute’s collection. Focusing most frequently on landscape, Mitchell found success in the medium of watercolor and impressed her teachers enough to earn a one-year travelling fellowship that would take her in 1948 to France for the first time. She would ultimately settle there in the 1950s and this environment would have a profound effect on her work. Mitchell’s art became increasingly more abstract as she painted views of the river and bridges from her studio across the Seine from Notre-Dame. The country was transformative for her and it was only then that her mature life as a painter began. Throughout her career Mitchell maintained her deep affinity for landscape, and often discussed the overwhelming influence of nature and her physical environment on her paintings. As she stated: “My paintings aren’t about art issues. They’re about a feeling that comes to me from the outside, from landscape… The painting is just a surface to be covered. Paintings aren’t about the person who makes them, either. My paintings have to do with feelings.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Joan Mitchell, 1974, p.6)

While discussing Mitchell’s paintings of the late 1970s, Klaus Kertess described a pronounced progression towards greater visual and emotional depth. The latter part of Mitchell’s oeuvre, beginning in this period when she turned fifty and ending with her death in 1992, is defined by an intensification of feeling and inspiration on all fronts. Kertess states: “As she reached the age of fifty, her sense of wonder in nature not only remained intact but continued to expand, while her fear and rage at human loss had hardly subsided. The growing breadth of her work, therefore, seems to be predicated not on surrender but rather on a knowing resignation to the increasing odds against the survival of her flesh.” (Klaus Kertess, Joan Mithcell, New York, 1977, pp. 34-35) It is as if Mitchell needed to continue expanding the size of her canvases at this time in order to pour more of herself into them. The present work is a demonstration of the decisive attributes of Joan Mitchell’s aesthetic: simultaneously methodical and spontaneous in technique, expressive of personal feelings and reflective of physical surroundings, No Room at the End captures in paint the multitudinous brilliance of Mitchell’s highly lauded painterly voice.

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