Synopses & Reviews
“Gee, Joan, if only you were French and male and dead.” —New York art dealer to Joan Mitchell, the 1950s
She was a steel heiress from the Midwest—Chicago and Lake Forest (her grandfather built Chicagos bridges and worked for Andrew Carnegie). She was a daughter of the American Revolution—Anglo-Saxon, Republican, Episcopalian.
She was tough, disciplined, courageous, dazzling, and went up against the masculine art world at its most entrenched, made her way in it, and disproved their notion that women couldnt paint.
Joan Mitchell is the first full-scale biography of the abstract expressionist painter who came of age in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s; a portrait of an outrageous artist and her struggling artist world, painters making their way in the second part of Americas twentieth century.
As a young girl she was a champion figure skater, and though she lacked balance and coordination, accomplished one athletic triumph after another, until giving up competitive skating to become a painter.
Mitchell saw people and things in color; color and emotion were the same to her. She said, “I use the past to make my pic[tures] and I want all of it and even you and me in candlelight on the train and every ‘lover Ive ever had—every friend—nothing closed out. Its all part of me and I want to confront it and sleep with it—the dreams—and paint it.”
Her work had an unerring sense of formal rectitude, daring, and discipline, as well as delicacy, grace, and awkwardness.
Mitchell exuded a young, smoky, tough glamour and was thought of as “sexy as hell.”
Albers writes about how Mitchell married her girlhood pal, Barnet Rosset, Jr.—scion of a financier who was head of Chicagos Metropolitan Trust and partner of Jimmy Roosevelt. Rosset went on to buy Grove Press in 1951, at Mitchells urging, and to publish Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, et al., making Grove into the great avant-garde publishing house of its time.
Mitchells life was messy and reckless: in New York and East Hampton carousing with de Kooning, Frank OHara, James Schuyler, Jane Freilicher, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, and others; going to clambakes, cocktail parties, softball games—and living an entirely different existence in Paris and Vétheuil.
Mitchells inner life embraced a world beyond her own craft, especially literature . . . her compositions were informed by imagined landscapes or feelings about places.
In Joan Mitchell, Patricia Albers brilliantly reconstructs the painters large and impassioned life: her growing prominence as an artist; her marriage and affairs; her friendships with poets and painters; her extraordinary work.
Joan Mitchell re-creates the times, the people, and her worlds from the 1920s through the 1990s and brings it all spectacularly to life.
"In this first biography of renowned abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell (1925 1992), Albers (Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti) vividly chronicles the artist's tortuous journey from her wealthy upbringing in Chicago to her defiant student days at Smith College, and as a young painter at the Art Institute of Chicago when 'the wisdom of the day held that women couldn't really paint.' Albers focuses on Mitchell's artistic life as a rising and respected New York School painter and her years in France from the late 1950s until her death. Albers deftly balances Mitchell's often difficult temperament (some found her 'cranky and contentious'; she was an insomniac and alcoholic) with her artistic vision. Mitchell described her mind as a mental 'suitcase filled with pictures,' and Albers centers her narrative on the 'blessing and curse' of Mitchell's vivid visual memory and synesthesia. Albers astutely analyzes Mitchell's paintings, and one wishes she had done so more often throughout a generally comprehensive study. Vibrantly written and carefully researched, including numerous interviews with Mitchell's former husband, Barney Rosset (former owner of Grove Press), friends, lovers, and colleagues, Albers constructs a fluid, energetic narrative of Mitchell's complicated life and work. 8 pages of color photos, 62 photos in text. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A full-scale biography--the first--of the dazzling, outrageous, mythic Abstract Expressionist artist considered today one of the major American painters of the latter half of the twentieth century.
Joan Mitchell--Midwestern steel heiress; ice-skating champion--came of age as an artist on New York's Tenth Street in the 1950s; knocking back beers at the Cedar Bar with de Kooning, Pollock, Kline, et al.; carousing in the Hamptons with Frank O'Hara, Saul Steinberg, Helen Frankenthaler; hanging out with hip cats at the Five Spot; and forging her own path in an art world convinced that women couldn't paint.
In Joan Mitchell, Patricia Albers brilliantly reconstructs Mitchell's large and reckless life (her debutante years growing up in the Midwest; the evolution of her extraordinary work; her marriage to Barney Rosset Jr., owner and publisher of Grove Press; her affairs; her exhibitions) as seen through the times, the people, and the worlds of Chicago, Lake Forest, New York, Long Island's East End, and the expatriate circles of Paris--from the 1920s through the 1990s.
About the Author
Patricia Albers is the author of Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, art journals, and museum catalogs. She has curated many exhibitions, among them Tina Modotti and the Mexican Renaissance. She lives in Mountain View, California.