Lot 125
  • 125

Joan Mitchell

300,000 - 400,000 USD
538,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Joan Mitchell
  • Untitled 
  • oil on canvas
  • 24 by 19 5/8 in. 61 by 50 cm.
  • Executed in 1974.


Fourcade, Droll, Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in November 1974

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1974, the same year as Joan Mitchell’s important exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Untitled is an exceptional example of the artist’s technique. More intimate in scale than some of her larger compositions, the present work conveys all the emotion and subtlety that one expects out of a Mitchell. This effect is created through a series of juxtapositions within the composition. A myriad of colors are used throughout the work: a cloud of lavender hovers at the top portion of the canvas, while bright swaths of orange and navy blue are placed next to each other in the bottom right, reminiscent of the stunning juxtaposition of complementary colors in Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise (1872). The texture of the work is similarly varied: the upper third, with its barely visible brushstrokes, suggests a more subtle movement; the central area, by contrast, boasts smaller areas of color applied more thickly, while the lower third progresses to larger areas of pigment applied with broader strokes. The composition permeates to the edges of the canvas, further imbuing the dynamic Untitled with a feeling of lightness. 

Born in Chicago in 1926, Joan Mitchell was exposed to art at a young age through her mother’s career as an editor and her father’s interest in drawing. When Mitchell later moved to New York City in the 1940s, she became part of the downtown art scene, associating with the Abstract Expressionist painters, whose interests and goals aligned with her own. However, she was always aware of her tenuous place as a “lady painter” in an otherwise male dominated milieu. Mitchell’s move to France in the late 1950s afforded her some emotional distance from city life and allowed her to grow exponentially as an artist. 

Painted during the middle of her residency in France, Untitled nods towards both Contemporary and Impressionist influences. At this point in her life, Mitchell was living in Vétheuil, a town in the countryside a short distance from the house that Monet had occupied, and their common influence is apparent. Her colors conjure up evocations of sunlight, foliage, and water – similar to the subject matter that occupied Monet and the Impressionists. However, the impact of her contemporaries is apparent as well, and her familiarity with the work of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Philip Guston is apparent in her abstract composition and bold brushwork. Ultimately, through a combination of influences and techniques, Mitchell arrives at a mesmerizing style that is all her own.