Despite the forthrightness of the strokes and vivacity of color in Mitchell’s canvases from 1980, the year was difficult for Mitchell as she was left for another woman by her long time romantic partner and fellow artist Jean-Paul Riopelle the year before. Mitchell once wrote of her fear of abandonment: “I am afraid of death. Abandonment is death also. I mean: Somebody leaves and other people also leave. I never say goodbye to people. Somebody comes for dinner and then leaves. I am very nervous. Because the leaving is the worst part” (Judith Bernstock, Joan Mitchell, New York 1988, p. 168). Mitchell and Riopelle had a tempestuous, on-and-off again relationship, sparked by moments of intense passion and then heart-wrenching separation throughout the 1960s and 1970s. When Mitchell was asked to annotate her 1986 interview with art historian Linda Nochlin and mention Riopelle’s name ‘for the record’ (she initially omitted it in her commentary), Mitchell lashed back, “Oh. If they want a record, they can get it. [Jean Paul Riopelle, French Canadian painter, born 1923, Montreal. Left me for ____ with 26-year-old American dogsitter (1980) who was living in my house. They too are split now]” (Smithsonian, Archives of American Art, “Interview with Joan Mitchell Conducted by Linda Nochlin At the Westbury Hotel,” New York, 16 April 1986). As Judith Bernstock writes of Mitchell’s 1980 paintings, “In the cold blue and icy white one feels Mitchell’s dread of the final farewell, whereas the green, traditional symbol of hope and rebirth (spring), may convey her desire for new beginnings in life—spiritual rebirth...the green of hope and rebirth is infected by the black of despair and death” (Bernstock, pp. 168-169). Behind the densely packed surface of Another and Mitchell’s clear dominance as a commanding abstract painter, there is a sadness and a deeply engrained fear of being alone.
The heat at the bottom of the canvas, mitigated by the sharply contrasting purples, electric greens and somber blacks are reminiscent of the hues of a van Gogh landscape. Mitchell declared van Gogh a favorite at the age of six and would have seen his work on formative visits in her youth to the Art of Institute of Chicago. Though imbued with melancholic emotion, a viewer is reminded of Mitchell’s love of flowers—especially daisies and sunflowers, both types that Mitchell cherished and planted in her garden. Throughout the beginning of the 1980s Mitchell would further develop her use of the color yellow into a series of Yellow Paintings with a characteristically new, more somber feeling than her Sunflowers of the 1960s. “She remarks that people did not perceive her extreme unhappiness during the period of her Yellow Paintings because they associated warm colors exclusively with joy. The blacks and oranges in the painting of 1980 evoke the feeling of dying flowers, with which Mitchell was preoccupied in the early 1980s” (Bernstock, p. 172). The pulsating vibrant outburst of warm yellows tempered by the cold, dark dripping strokes coupled with the fluidity of Mitchell’s gesture and the vivacity of her palette afford this painting a remarkable optimism that, as with the most superb examples of her art, is closely tied to significant personal circumstances at the time of its execution.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale