Born in Chicago, Joan Mitchell attended Smith College and The Art Institute of Chicago before moving to New York in 1950. She was known as an enthusiastic part of the Cedar Bar crowd that included artists such as Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, and became one of the few women to be recognised among the first-rank Abstract Expressionist painters.
Inspired by the natural landscape and poetry, Mitchell expressed her emotional responses with intense colour and expressive brushstrokes. Her work was not concerned with either literal representation or her own subconscious, but simply recorded her instant reactions with pure physical materiality. After moving to France to join Canadian painter Jean Paul Riopelle in 1955, visions of Vétheuil dominated her paintings; from views over the River Seine, to the sunflowers of the countryside. The two artists were great influences on each other’s work, but later divorced after a long and tempestuous marriage.
Mitchell died of lung cancer in 1992, at 66 years of age.