Studio Visit: “Little” and “Big” Joan Mitchell

Fans in a Flashbulb

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Joan Mitchell lived and worked in a suburb about an hour from Paris called Vétheuil. The house was a rambling stone structure, not grand but very comfortable. In the back was her studio, a separate traditional, skylit artist’s atelier, down a corridor of paving stones set amid beautiful gardens created by Mitchell herself.

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From Mitchell’s house one was afforded views of the green-grey Seine, and square and rectangular patches of wheat colored fields in the dusty June light. She talked a great deal about the “beautiful, grey, Ile de France light,” how it brought colors to life. We were introduced by our mutual friend John Cheim. When these photographs were taken, she had not recovered from hip surgery and had top work on crutches – quite unlike the younger Mitchell, who was always scrambling up and down ladders.

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Mitchell painted very much alone and needed to isolate herself…

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