Joan Mitchell: An Illustrated Biography

Joan Mitchell was an artist whose career spanned more than four decades, from her first professional solo exhibition in New York in 1952 until her death in France in 1992. This timeline highlights key milestones in her life and creative development.

1925

Joan Mitchell with her mother Marion Strobel, 1925

Joan Mitchell is born February 12 in Chicago, Illinois, to James Herbert and Marion Strobel Mitchell. She is the second of two daughters.

1935

Joan Mitchell reading, ca. 1932

Mitchell's poem, Autumn, is published in Poetry magazine, where her mother is an editor.

1937

Joan Mitchell on horseback, ca. 1937

Throughout her youth, Mitchell is active in competitive athletics, including horseback riding, diving, and figure skating.

1941

Joan Mitchell and Bobby Specht ice skating, ca. 1940

Mitchell wins the Midwest Junior Pairs Title with ice skating partner Bobby Specht.

1942

Residents of Park House, Smith College, 1943

Mitchell places fourth in the Junior Women's Division of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

She enters Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, as an English major.

1943

Newspaper clipping about Joan Mitchell's exhibition at Francis Parker School, 1943

Mitchell has her first solo art exhibition at her alma mater, the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago.

1944

Joan Mitchell and Dan Sparling at the Ox-Bow School of Art in Michigan, 1944

Mitchell transfers to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study Fine Arts and spends her summer painting and making prints at Ox-Bow, an art colony operated by The Art Institute in Saugatuck, Michigan.

1945 - 1946

Joan Mitchell, Manuel de Ezcurdia, and Zuka Omalev in Guanajuato, Mexico, ca. 1945

During the summers of 1945 and 1946, Mitchell travels to Mexico where she paints in Guanajuato.

1947

Joan Mitchell and Barney Rosset in Brooklyn, New York, 1947

Mitchell graduates and is awarded the James Nelson Raymond Traveling Fellowship from the School of the Art Institute. Due to post-war condi­tions in Europe, she will not use this fellowship until her 1948 voyage to France.

Her lithograph Tired Children (ca. 1947) is shown in the Fifty-first Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity at the Art Institute of Chicago and receives the Print Committee Prize.

Mitchell establishes residence with Barney Rosset at 1 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, where she continues to paint.

1948

Joan Mitchell at the window of her 73 rue Galande apartment studio in Paris, 1948. Photo by Barney Rosset.

Mitchell travels to Paris where she rents a studio at 73 Rue Galande.

1949

Villa le Pin in Le Lavandou, France, 1949. Photo by Barney Rosset.

Mitchell leaves Paris for Le Lavandou on France's Cote d'Azur, where she and Barney Rosset live at the Villa le Pin. They are married on September 10, and begin their return to the U.S. later that month.

1950

Joan Mitchell with one of her paintings, ca. 1951

Mitchell receives a Master in Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In New York, she establishes a studio on 11th Street, and later 9th Street. She meets Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, and becomes part of the downtown scene, spending time at the Cedar Bar and participating in discussions at the Artists' Club.

Mitchell has solo exhibitions at the Saint Paul Gallery and School of Art in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Bank Lane Gallery in Lake Forest, Illinois.

1951

Exhibition poster for 9th Street Show, New York, 1951

Mitchell moves to 10th Street and participates in the 9th Street Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture organized by Leo Castelli and the Artists' Club.

She studies Art History at Columbia University and French at New York University, and helps to estab­lish the avant-garde publishing company Grove Press with husband Barney Rosset.



1952

Installation view of Joan Mitchell at the New Gallery, New York, 1952

Mitchell has her first solo exhibition in New York at the New Gallery.

She and Barney Rosset divorce and she moves to 60 St. Mark's Place. She develops a friendship with poet Frank O'Hara and becomes associated with his circle of writers and artists.

1953

Exhibition poster for Joan Mitchell at Stable Gallery, New York,, 1953

Mitchell participates in The Second Annual Exhibi­tion of Painting and Sculpture at the Stable Gallery in New York.

Her solo exhibition with the Stable Gallery opens in April.

1954

Joan Mitchell and Georges du Soleil in Springs, New York, ca. 1953. Photo by Barney Rosset.

During the summers of 1953 and 1954, Mitchell lives and paints on the east end of Long Island.

1955

Joan Mitchell and Jean Paul Riopelle in Chicago, 1959

Mitchell travels to Paris where she meets painter Jean Paul Riopelle, with whom she will live for over twenty years.

Mitchell participates in Vanguard 1955, an important group exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Other exhibitions this year include the Pittsburgh International at the Carnegie Institute and the Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. She has her second solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery.

1956

Krapp’s Last Tape and Embers by Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 1959) from Joan Mitchell’s library

Mitchell meets Samuel Beckett, who will remain a close friend.

She is included in the traveling exhi­bition Recent American Watercolorists organized by the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1957

Exhibition catalogue cover: Artists of the New York School: Second Generation, Jewish Museum, New York, 1957

Mitchell exhibits Color in Space (1956) and Hudson River Day Line (1956) in the important group ex­hibition Artists of the New York School: Second Generation at the Jewish Museum, New York.

The essay Mitchell Paints a Picture by Irving Sandler is published in ARTnews magazine, accompanied by photographs of Mitchell in her studio by Rudy Burckhardt.

Her third solo exhibition with the Stable Gallery opens.

1958

Joan Mitchell, Hemlock (detail), 1956.

The Whitney Museum of American Art purchases Hemlock (1956).

City Landscape (1954-1955) is included in the 18th Annual Society for Contemporary American Art Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and is selected for purchase for the perma­nent collection.

The paintings Ladybug (1957) and October Island (1956) are exhibited in the Interna­tional Young Artists section of the Venice Biennale.

1959

Joan Mitchell’s rue Frémicourt studio, Paris, 1959

Mitchell moves to Paris and leases a studio at 10 Rue Frémicourt with Jean Paul Riopelle.

The painting August, rue Daguerre (1957) is exhibited at documen­ta II in Kassel, Germany.

1960

Exhibition booklet for Joan Mitchell at Galleria dell’Ariete, Milan, 1960

Mitchell has two solo exhibitions in Europe: at Galerie Neufville in Paris and Galleria dell'Ariete in Milan.

Tiber Press publishes The Poems, a collabo­ration between Mitchell and John Ashbery which forms part of a four-volume set of artist-poet collab­orations.

Mitchell's mother Marion Strobel is diag­nosed with cancer.

1961

Cover of November 1961 issue of ARTnews featuring Joan Mitchell’s Skyes, 1961

Mitchell is awarded the Premio Lissone.

Her painting Atlantic Side (1960) is included in the group exhibition American Abstract Expression­ists and Imagists at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

ARTnews magazine reproduces Skyes (1961) on its cover.

The exhibition Joan Mitchell: Paintings 1951-1961, is held at the Mr. and Mrs. John Russell Mitchell Gallery, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchases Ladybug (1957).

1962

Invitation card to Joan Mitchell at Galerie Jacques Dubourg and Galerie Lawrence, Paris, 1962

Mitchell has solo exhibitions at Galerie Jacques Dubourg and Galerie Lawrence, both in Paris; Klipstein & Kornfeld in Bern, Switzerland; and the New Gallery, MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1963

James Herbert Mitchell and Joan Mitchell, n.d.

Mitchell's father James Herbert Mitchell passes away.

1966

Marion Strobel and Joan Mitchell in Chicago, 1955

Mitchell's mother Marion Strobel Mitchell passes away on March 14.

Frank O'Hara dies in an accident on July 25 (this date later becomes the title of a suite of Mitchell’s paintings).

1967

Invitation card to Joan Mitchell at Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, 1967

Mitchell purchases an estate overlooking the Seine in the village of Vétheuil, northwest of Paris.

She has her first solo exhibition at Galerie Jean Fournier in Paris in May and participates in the show In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O'Hara, a memorial exhibition and publication organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1968

La Tour, Joan Mitchell's property in Vétheuil, France, 1967

Mitchell has her first solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery in New York.

She establishes permanent residence in Vétheuil.

1971

Joan Mitchell and Norman Bluhm in his Millbrook, New York studio, 1971

Mitchell is awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art from Western College (now part of Miami University) in Oxford, Ohio.

1972

Installation view of the exhibition Joan Mitchell: My Five Years in the Country at the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, 1972

Mitchell has her first major museum solo exhibition, My Five Years in the Country: An Exhibition of Forty-nine Paintings by Joan Mitchell, at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.

She creates a series of seven large-scale etchings with publisher Arte Adrien Maeght, Paris.

1973

Joan Mitchell, Clearing (detail), 1973

Mitchell receives the Creative Arts Award Citation in Painting of Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, during a ceremony held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

1974

Joan Mitchell at the opening of the exhibition Joan Mitchell at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974

Mitchell's solo exhibition, curated by Marcia Tucker, opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

1975

Joan Mitchell's German Shepherd Iva in her Vétheuil studio with Un jardin pour Audrey, 1975

Mitchell creates numerous pastel drawings on paper with typed poems by friends Jacques Dupin, J. J. Mitchell, James Schuyler, Pierre Schneider, and Chris Larson.

1976

Cover of exhibition catalogue for Joan Mitchell: New Paintings at Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, 1976

Mitchell has her first solo exhibition with Xavier Fourcade Gallery, New York.

1979

Exhibition invitation showing Two Pianos in Joan Mitchell's Vétheuil studio, 1980. Photo by Jesse A. Fernandez.

Mitchell's relationship with Riopelle ends.

1981

Joan Mitchell and Ken Tyler at Tyler Graphics Ltd. in Bedford Village, New York, 1981. Photo by Hans Namuth.

Mitchell creates the Bedford Series, a group of ten large color lithographs published by Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York.

Edrita Fried, Mitchell’s former psychologist and longtime friend, dies of cancer. Mitchell titles a quadriptych painting Edrita Fried in her honor.

1982

Joan Mitchell and Sally Perry in Santa Barbara, n.d.

Mitchell has her first major European museum solo exhibition, Joan Mitchell: Choix de Peintures, 1970-1982, at the Musee d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris. She is the first female American artist to have an exhibition at the museum.

Mitchell's older sister Sally Perry dies of cancer.

1983

Joan Mitchell, La Grande Vallée XVI, Pour Iva (detail), 1983

Mitchell begins the Grande Vallée paintings, a suite of twenty-one monumental works inspired by a hidden valley in Brittany precious to dear friend Gisèle Barreau and her cousin during their child­hood.

1984

Joan Mitchell in her Vétheuil studio, 1983. Photo by Robert Freson.

Mitchell is diagnosed with cancer of the jaw and begins a series of treatments.

1985

Joan Mitchell and Jean Fournier, ca. 1985

Mitchell is hospitalized for hip surgery.

1987

Joan Mitchell and Xavier Fourcade in her Vétheuil studio, 1987

Gallery owner Xavier Fourcade dies.

1988

Installation view of the exhibition The Paintings of Joan Mitchell: Thirty-Six Years of Natural Expressionism at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 1988-1989

Mitchell receives the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement from the College Art Association of America. Mitchell is the first artist to receive this newly established award.

She also receives an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is appointed Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

Mitchell's retrospective exhibition, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell: Thirty-six Years of Natural Expres­sionism, organized for the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, tours the United States with stops at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the San Francisco Museum of Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, California; and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Joan Mitchell, edited by Judith E. Bernstock, guest curator of the exhibition, is published by Hudson Hills Press, New York, to accompany the exhibition; it is the first full monograph on the artist.

1989

Joan Mitchell, Untitled (detail), 1989

Mitchell is hospitalized for a second hip operation. After the surgery she leases a studio on Rue Cam­pagne-Première in Montparnasse, where she works on pastel drawings.

She receives the Grand Prix National de Peinture in France and has her first solo exhibition at the Robert Miller Gallery, New York.

Limestone Press publishes Smoke, a book of Mitch­ell's etchings and poems by Charles Hine.

1991

Kenneth Tyler and Joan Mitchell with proofs of Mitchell's prints at Tyler Graphics Ltd. artist's studio, Mount Kisco, New York, 1991. Photo by Marabeth Cohen-Tyler.

Mitchell receives the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris in painting.

Mitchell returns to Tyler Graphics in Mount Kisco, New York where she and Ken Tyler collaborate on the Fields, Trees, and Weeds suites of prints.

1992

Sky, a lithograph from Poems by Nathan Kernan and Joan Mitchell, printed and published by Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York, 1992

Mitchell's first solo museum exhibition of drawings, Joan Mitchell: Pastel, opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In conjunction with the exhibition Joan Mitchell: Pastel, a monograph with an introduction by Klaus Kertess, is published by Robert Miller, New York.

Éditions de La Dif­ference, Paris, publishes Joan Mitchell by Michel Waldberg, the first monograph in French on the artist.

Poems, with text by Nathan Kernan and eight color lithographs by Mitchell, is published by Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York.

On October 30, 1992, Mitchell dies of lung cancer in a Paris hospital.

Selected Books & Media

We've compiled a group of books, articles, oral histories, and documentaries about Joan Mitchell and her work.

More Books & Media