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- Mitchell’s parents weren’t visual artists but they did appreciate the arts. They were a wealthy family in Chicago with her father being a physician while her mother was a poet. Her grandfather was a steel magnate. Mitchell was educated at Smith College, Columbia University and NYU. She obtained an MFA degree and became friends with the abstract expressionist artists once she moved to New York.
- Mitchell participated in group abstract expressionist exhibitions, such as the 9th Street Show and the Artists of the New York School: Second Generation. She exhibited her works at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA.
- Style-wise her work in this 1950s period used rhythmic brushstrokes to produce dynamic, bold art works. Her paintings were known for huge, light-filled abstractions. Landscape influenced her subject matter.
- Mitchell painted on unprimed canvas or white ground. Always painted with oils, sometimes in thin washes, sometimes in impasto crusts. Her brushwork verged on the violent so her paintings were expressive and emotional. She rejected the ‘all-over’ approach to composition used by other abstract expressionists.
- “My paintings aren’t about art issues. They’re about a feeling that comes to me from the outside; from landscape…the painting is just a surface to be covered. Paintings aren’t about the person who makes them, either. My paintings have to do with feelings.”
- Mitchell listened to jazz or classical music while painting through the night under artificial lighting. When it was daylight, she would stop to take her canvas outdoors to see the colors.
- By 1960, Mitchell opened a studio in France. She eventually moved permanently to Vétheuil, France, in the countryside, near Claude Monet’s Giverny.