In an expansive retrospective about Joan Mitchell paintings, SFMOMA introduces this powerful, engaging artist who remains somewhat out-of-the-way. But not for long.
Born in Chicago, this American artist spent more than thirty years in France, where she died in 1992. Yet this Francophile is not as well known to the general public as one might imagine.
Immersed from her early years by the arts in the broad sense (music, painting, sculpture, etc.), she decided to pursue an artistic career at a very young age. Joan Mitchell was, among other things, fascinated by the landscapes that surrounded her.
Looking to abandon her comfort zone, she left for New York in the 1950s and never returned to the Midwest.
She frequented many artists of the era, such as de Kooning, who was already a recognized figure in abstract expressionism.
With little delay, this formidable woman traveled to Paris in search of professional development. She also immerses herself in the work of artists who intrigued her, such as Monet, Cezanne, or Van Gogh.
In 1959, she decided to make Paris her home, quickly built a reputation, and became part of the Parisian artistic circle. And she consistently refused to be locked into any predictable category.
Through the 80 paintings exhibited at SFMOMA, the visitor discovers an abstract painting of singular strength. Her work shows a unique combination of superimposed colors and a noticeable palette of whites.
We recommend paying particular attention to “To the Harbormaster,” “Ligne of Rupture,” or “Sans neige” Those paintings quickly surround the visitor by their size and the usage of dazzling colors.
In a series of short video interviews, one can feel the vigor and the energy of Joan Mitchell, who has produced a lot but who also speaks of the difficulty of being a painter and a woman while keeping her “sauvage” personality as she expresses it.
This retrospective is at SFMOMA from September 4, 2021, to January 17, 2022, and is a world premiere. The exhibition will then travel to the Baltimore Museum of Art to pursue its journey to the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris in November 2022. We have even been told that it would be then enriched with numerous documents in its Parisian version. A catalog with a detailed biography of several hundred pages accompanies the exhibition.
In any case, we strongly recommend going to get a real sensory experience that does not suffer looking at reproductions or virtual tours… The work of colors and materials is far too unique.
Don’t forget to book tickets in advance here.
Monday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Tuesday + Wednesday: Closed
Thursday: 1–8 p.m.
Fri–Sun: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
SFMOMA is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The museum will be open until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.