Jackie Wullschlager offers a pocket biography of Joan Mitchell in her Financial Times review of the artist’s show in Scotland this Summer:
Mitchell was born in 1925 in Chicago – her frequent broad expanses of cool, bluish whites evoke the city’s winter skies and glassy lakes – and died in 1992. Richly educated in literature by her mother, who with Harriet Monroe edited the modern verse journal Poetry, she was a natural lyric painter. From her grandfather, a bridge engineer, came the family fortune and an inheritance as important – an interest in structure, evident in the grand scaffolding of her compositions. From her father she learned iron discipline – he urged her on as champion figure skater, tennis player, diver, and an athlete’s physicality and intuition is sustained throughout her work. […]
The French connection – that she quit Manhattan for Paris as she hit her stride – is one of three reasons why Mitchell’s significance was and still is unacknowledged within the American canon. The others are that she was a woman, and that she belonged to the movement’s second generation. Ceaselessly angry, outspoken and resentful, she felt her marginalised position keenly. Yet, as this selection showcases, each factor which isolated her also contributed crucially to what made her unique as a painter: creatively, loneliness was a strength. […]
No artist more closely parallels Mitchell in painterly interest, development, inspiration and biography than Twombly. Born within three years of each other, both were shaped by the influence of Pollock and co, then fled to Europe as soon as they achieved recognition. Neither could have worked anywhere else: while pop art – Mitchell derided it as “pop, slop and plop” – and conceptualism ruled New York, Mitchell in France and Twombly in Italy alone held up the American abstract expressionist aesthetic in a sort of internal exile.
Joan Mitchell Show in Edinburgh (Financial Times)