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Hollis Taggart
Untitled, circa 1964
Oil pastel and graphite on paper
Signed lower right: "J. Mitchell"
23 1/2 x 21 x 1 1/2 in. (framed)
13 3/4 x 16 3/4 in. (unframed)


Gift of the artist to Carl Plansky
Amy Wolf Fine Art, New York
Private collection, New York

Joan Mitchell is perhaps best known as a second-generation member of the New York School. Although she was included in the celebrated 1957 exhibition ‘Artists of the New York School: Second Generation’ at the Jewish Museum in New York, Mitchell lived and worked primarily in France. While her dramatic, lushly executed works possess an active gestural quality that connects her work to New York School artists such as Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Philip Guston, her work evokes the paintings and pastels of French Impressionists with their vivid palette and frequent reference to nature. Due to her combining of both influences, Mitchell is frequently termed an Abstract Impressionist. Such an association is reinforced by the fact that after 1959, Mitchell worked primarily out of Vetheuil, a town outside of Paris where Claude Monet lived and worked.

Though Mitchell is an undeniable master of oil paint, her pastel, graphite, watercolor and gouache drawings on paper are an impressive body of work in their own right. “Untitled” 1964, reflects a shift in Mitchell’s sensibility in the early 1960s “away from the aggressively active Abstract Expressionist brushwork, toward a more delicate, subtle, and lyrical style” (1). Perhaps drawn from the lush colors of the French countryside, the work on paper is centered on an elegant frenzy of deep greens, complex lavenders, with hints of blush and yellow. Interestingly, Mitchell did not associate this body of work with the pleasant, bucolic environment in which she was working but dubbed this period as a time that produced “violent and angry paintings” (2), as she was responding to the personal upheaval and discomfort of her father’s death and her mother’s diagnosis with cancer. This work on paper captures the central aesthetic and theoretical tensions that Mitchell explored throughout her career, that between chaos and beauty; strength and subtlety; and creation and destruction.

The artists work has been widely exhibited in the US and abroad. Of particular significance is the ten-year retrospective held by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974 and a 1982 solo exhibition at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. In 1988, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University mounted a major retrospective exhibition of her work that traveled to several venues, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the San Franciso Museum of Art, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in 2002, the Whitney Museum of American Art featured her work in a posthumous exhibition. Over two decades after her death, Mitchell’s distinctive work continues to influence several generations of artists.

1.Jane Livingston, “ The Paintings of Joan Mitchell” in Jane Livingston, “The Paintings of Joan Mithcell”. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: 2002, pp. 25.