Estimate: £400,000 - £600,000
ca. US$518,541 - US$777,811
Price realised: £441,000
Property from a Private CollectionΟ22Joan MitchellUntitledsigned 'Joan Mitchell' on the left stretcher; further signed and dedicated 'To Elga Merry Christmas love Joan Joan MitchEll' on the right stretcher oil on canvas, diptych 46.2 x 76.2 cm (18 1/4 x 30 in.) Painted in 1975. Full CataloguingEstimate £400,000 - 600,000 Place Advance BidContact Specialist Kate Bryan Specialist, Head of Evening Sale +44 20 7318 4026 [email protected]
Overview'What excites me when I’m painting is what one color does to another and what they do to each other in terms of space and interaction.' —Joan Mitchell Evincing myriad shades of green on two jewel-sized panels, Untitled is a rare small-scale painting from Joan Mitchell’s later body of work. Settling definitively in the French commune of Vétheuil from 1967, following eight years of living in Paris, Mitchell developed an assertive abstract style inspired by natural phenomena, typically devised on larger-than-life canvases, and influenced by her painterly predecessors Claude Monet and Henri Matisse With more space to paint in the countryside, the artist began using multiple panels; diptychs, triptychs or polyptychs within which each varied repetition produced a compelling and meditative sense of balance. In her painting process, Mitchell carefully layered each colour, attentive to the weight of her brushstrokes, and often standing far from the canvas between layers to assess the inner workings of her composition. ‘The freedom in my work is quite controlled,’ she once explained. ‘I don't close my eyes and hope for the best’.i Untitled, plunged in moss, fern and emerald greens, is an exquisite example of her mature painterly technique, capturing Mitchell’s ability to convey human emotions on a delightfully engaging scale. Created on the heels of her first major institutional show at the Whitney Museum, New York, in 1974, and immediately preceding her inaugural solo show at Xavier Fourcade, New York, two years later, Untitled furthermore demonstrates the new heights that Mitchell’s oeuvre had reached in the mid-1970s – notably echoing, both in composition and structure, her masterpiece Posted, 1977, residing at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Joan Mitchell walking in her garden. Image: David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images. Inscribed with the words 'To Elga/ merry/ Christmas/love from Joan Mitchell’ on the diptych’s right stretcher, Composition was painted as a gift to the artist’s close friend Elga Heinzen in Christmas 1975. Recording the two women’s longtime friendship – characterised by many encounters in Vétheuil and epitomised by Heinzen’s support to Mitchell in difficult times (in a telling anecdote recounted by Mitchell’s biographer Patricia Albers, Heinzen notoriously buried the artist’s two German shepherds in the painter’s garden) – Untitled remained in Heinzen’s collection in Garches for years, before emerging to the public eye almost fifty years later. An artist herself, born in Geneva and working in Paris, Heinzen creates sculptural folds examining the mute traces left by movement and the silent force populating vacant spaces: what she calls ‘the presence in absence’. In creating these sculptural manifestations, Heinzen declared sometimes being reminded of a shroud, ‘even though I did not experience grief until 1992, when I lost Joan Mitchell We were very close’.ii Documenting one of many events that punctuated their perennial friendship, Untitled is a sublime rendition of Mitchell’s verdant environments and human attachments in painterly form. Joan Mitchell with Elga Heinzen Galerie Fournier, Paris, c. 1970s. Image: Private Collection. Joan Mitchell’s Journey Though Mitchell initially undertook painting and writing at a very young age, she began gaining critical and commercial momentum in the late 1940s, when she devised her first lyrical abstract paintings. Capturing the attention of the New York avant-garde at a time when women in the art world were predominantly marginalised, she was, in 1951, one of only a few women invited to join ‘The Club’, the East Eighth Street gathering place where the Abstract Expressionists met for weekly discussions. That same year, her participation in the groundbreaking ‘Ninth Street Art Exhibitions’ alongside Willem de Kooning Jackson Pollock Mark Rothko and Franz Kline earned her a definite association with the movement -- thereafter being dubbed by many as a ‘secon
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