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on Oct 12, 2019 in | Comments Off on Joan Mitchell

(Click to Enlarge)
Joan Mitchell (1925 – 1992)
Charcoal on Paper
10 x 7 1/2 inches
18 1/2 x 16 inches behind glass in modern frame
Good original condition with minor blemishes and staining
Exhibited at Francis Naumann Gallery, “Joan Mitchell Sketchbook 1949-1951”, May 3 – July 15, 2015 (Gallery Exhibition label en verso as well as Craig Flinner Gallery, Baltimore, MD label)
Probable depiction of African American gentleman in New York City

Joan Mitchell Sketchbook 1949-1951

Exhibition May 3 – July 15, 2015

As the title of this exhibition indicates, “Joan Mitchell Sketchbook 1949-1951,” consists of a single sketchbook kept by the artist between the years 1949 and 1951. It is a document consisting of approximately sixty separate pages (the majority of which are drawn on both sides). Since the sketchbook is no longer bound, the pages were separated and the drawings individually matted and framed for display in this exhibition. This sketchbook was only recently discovered, and has therefore never been recorded in the literature on this important artist.

The sketchbook dates from a pivotal moment in Mitchell’s career, for it was in these years that she shed her reliance upon figurative imagery and joined the ranks of other abstract painters in New York. Professionally, the years 1949 through 1951 were very active and exciting for Mitchell, but her private life was tumultuous and in disarray, qualities that are somewhat reflected in the frenetic style of many drawings contained within the sketchbook. In 1949, she married Barney Rosset, a filmmaker and friend whom she had known since high school, but it was a union destined to be short lived. In 1950, she met the painter Michael Goldberg, with whom she would develop an intimate relationship that was fraught with its own problems. Through Goldberg, however, she met many of the most important painters working in New York at the time. They established friendships and engaged in debates with many artists who frequented the Cedar Street Tavern, and they attended round-table sessions and panel discussions at the Club, a loosely-knit group of abstract painters founded by Conrad Marca-Relli, Philip Pavia, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, all of whom were to become (in varying degrees) important influences on the future direction of Mitchell’s work.

The sketchbook preserves many drawings that were used as the basis for paintings. Over the years, the majority of these paintings were either lost or destroyed, but a group of slides taken in this period give us a pretty good indication of their appearance. Unfortunately, most of these slides have discolored over time, but the images have been digitized, color-corrected (as accurately as possible), and printed. In this exhibition, these reproductions will be displayed alongside drawings within the sketchbook that relate to the imagery they contain. Viewers will discover that many of the sketches were made of anonymous figures that Mitchell observed while walking the streets of Manhattan, or crowds riding the subway, disenfranchised souls that hearken to her longstanding commitment to social causes (in 1947, she was involved in the production of Rosset ‘s film Strange Victory, about race relations in the United States). The sketches range from little more than random jottings on a page, several of which appear to be thoughts about the possible composition of a painting, to detailed drawings, a number of which continue to rely upon specific figurative sources (such as those of female nudes). Finally, others exhibit a frenzied graphic quality that eerily presages the gestural abstract paintings that she would become known for in years to come. Source: francisnaumanndotcom

New York Times

Art in Review; Joan Mitchell

By Holland Cotter

June 17, 2005

Fremicourt Paintings, 1960-62 Cheim & Read 547 West 25th Street, Chelsea Through June 25

Sketchbook: 1949-51 Francis M. Naumann 22 East 80th Street, Manhattan Through July 15

Anyone coming for the first time to the American painter Joan Mitchell (1926-92) will find nearly all they need to know about her art in these two cogent gallery shows. And people familiar with her work will find things to learn.

Both shows catch her at crucial points in her career. Francis M. Naumann is exhibiting 60 pages from a single sketchbook dating from 1949 through 1951. These eventful years were marked by personal changes in her life, including a marriage to the Grove Press founder Barney Rosset and the beginning of an affair with the painter Michael Goldberg.

More important, Mitchell was moving between New York and Paris, on the one hand consolidating her connection to European modernism, particularly to Cézanne and early Mondrian, and on the other, absorbing the spirit of the New York painters she felt closest to, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky.

The sketchbook starts with straightforward figure drawings: an image of straphangers on a subway, New York City street portraits of Socialist Realist solidity. It moves through structural experiments learned from Cubism, and concludes with what could be landscapes dissolving into abstract thickets of lines. Some later pages are filled with jagged scribbles, as if Mitchell were trying certain automatic techniques finally to loosen the attachment to figuration and let her hand and eye go somewhere else.

In the paintings from 1960 to 1962 at Cheim & Read, she does go somewhere else. Geographically, she was in Paris. Stylistically, she was deep into an abstract, painterly expressionism that had fallen out of favor in New York. After working in black and white, she was luxuriating in color, not only the vegetable greens, yellows and browns usually associated with her, but also scarlets and mango-oranges, cerulean and cobalt blues; stroked, smudged, swiped and spattered on with brushes, fingers and rags.

A result was a visceral, intensely sensual painting. It has grandeur, but not the outreaching, big-passion eroticism of de Kooning, which tends to look sexy in a fleshy, Hollywoodish way. The eroticism of Mitchell’s art is more private, concentrated, less easy to read, as much a matter of mind as of body.

Her gestural lines are often short and calligraphic, but individually extremely alive, energy-conductive. Most of her compositions are focused on a single area of dense, tangly but expansive darkness, around which everything revolves or from which everything emerges, even explodes.

Mitchell’s painting has been compared to the late, near-abstract pictures of Monet, done in his water gardens at Giverny. Yet the pictures at Cheim & Read, vertically oriented and ranged around the gallery walls, reminded me of an 18th-century French painter of nature and human nature, Fragonard. Specifically, they brought to mind his narrative “Progress of Love” panels at the Frick Collection, but with their vistas of billowing trees and clouds, and their vignettes of amorous pursuit and encounter, blown — ecstatically, furiously and repeatedly — to smithereens. HOLLAND COTTER