Despite painter Joan Mitchell’s difficult temperament, and her era’s persistent denigration of women artists, the art world remained kind to her throughout her life. Critics and peers alike revered the artist’s singular style, which was defined early in her career by energetic brushstrokes, intense color, and frizzy compositions filled with paint drips and other markers of chance. She followed Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner and she was a market darling as well as scholarly.
“Mitchell was successful and established in her lifetime—despite the fact that most of the art history, particularly of the AbEx period, was dominated by the white men,”
As she began to build a career in the city, Mitchell boldly sought the guidance of established male artists like Pollock and De Kooning, and the rest of the so-called “Club” (founded by Pollock and other artists who often drank together at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village). She secured a spot in the landmark 1951 exhibition “The Ninth Street Show,” organized by artists and prominent dealer Leo Castelli. The next year, a solo show at the New Gallery followed. Mitchell’s career was off to a promising start; she would maintain that momentum over the next four decades.
Known for her aggressive personality (only made worse by a drinking problem), Mitchell’s toughness also helped her thrive in a male-dominated milieu. Based on the recent sales of her work, it appears that her singular approach to painting—and life—is paying off in a significant new way.