circa 1950

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Oil on canvas


59 7/8 x 65 inches (152.083 x 165.1 cm)


Joan Mitchell Foundation

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© Estate of Joan Mitchell.
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About This Work

This untitled work is one of Mitchell’s earliest mature paintings. In 1950, Mitchell and her then-husband Barney Rosset settled in New York. Mitchell became actively involved in the downtown avant-garde art scene, and established friendships and engaged in aesthetic debates with the group of artists who congregated at the Cedar Tavern on University Place. Mitchell visited Franz Kline in his studio on Ninth Street, and she also sought out Willem de Kooning at his Fourth Street studio after seeing his painting in the Whitney Annual held at the old Studio School on Eighth Street.

Describing a similar 1950s painting, curator Klaus Kertess wrote that Mitchell drew inspiration for this style of painting from the work of de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Vasily Kandinsky. However, he noted: “The sum of the influences does not equal the painting. The smooth spread of light; the brushstroke as a projectile in the precarious battle between order and chaos; and the centripetal compression of strokes, colors, and forms… transpose the varied polyphonies, urban and organic, of Kandinsky, Gorky, and de Kooning into an orchestration that is specifically Mitchell’s.”