âGee, Joan, if only you were French and male and dead.â âNew York art dealer to Joan Mitchell, the 1950sShe was a steel heiress from the MidwestâChicago and Lake Forest (her grandfather built Chicagoâs bridges and worked for Andrew Carnegie). She was a daughter of the American RevolutionâAnglo-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 couldnât paint.Joan Mitchell is the first full-scale biography of the abstract expressionist painter who came of age in the 1950s, â60s, and â70s; a portrait of an outrageous artist and her struggling artist world, painters making their way in the second part of Americaâs 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, âI 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 âloverâ Iâve ever hadâevery friendânothing closed out. Itâs all part of me and I want to confront it and sleep with itâthe dreamsâand paint it.âHer 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 âsexy as hell.âAlbers writes about how Mitchell married her girlhood pal, Barnet Rosset, Jr.âscion of a financier who was head of Chicagoâs Metropolitan Trust and partner of Jimmy Roosevelt. Rosset went on to buy Grove Press in 1951, at Mitchellâs 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. Mitchellâs life was messy and reckless: in New York and East Hampton carousing with de Kooning, Frank OâHara, James Schuyler, Jane Freilicher, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, and others; going to clambakes, cocktail parties, softball gamesâand living an entirely different existence in Paris and VĂ©theuil.Mitchellâs 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 painterâs 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.
Arts & Photography, Schools, Periods & Styles, Abstract Expressionism,