During an extended stay in Provence in 1948, early in her career, Joan Mitchell abandoned academic Realism in favor of abstract painting. The French countryside sustained her through the rest of her life, most of which she lived in the Ile-de-France region that inspired so many Impressionist painters.
During the 1950s, however, Mitchell lived in New York City, which was evolving into a center of advanced art. As an active member of The Club, located downtown, and as a regular exhibitor of her own work, she was one of the few women artists among the Abstract Expressionists. After 1959, Mitchell divided her time between New York and Paris, and in 1968 she settled for good in Vétheuil, just north of the French capital. The panoramic view of the river Seine from her property was important to Mitchell, who later said, "Water means everything."
Mitchell worked on her "field series" from 1971 to 1973. Rectilinear forms suggesting plots of land appear in all these paintings, of which Wet Orange (1972), a triptych, is the largest. Large as it is, the work is nevertheless meant to be seen as a whole. Mitchell said, "I paint them [the three panels of the triptych] to be seen at a distance, not to be read, not to be seen in three, [but] to be seen in one piece." Foreground and background are confounded; passages of color move ambiguously into space and across the picture plane. Through coloration and paint application, Mitchell makes the vitality of nature coexist with the rectilinear forms made by man in nature.
Mitchell's work is well known in Pittsburgh. It has been included in four Carnegie Internationals (1958, 1961, 1970, and 1995) and was featured in a three-artist show at The Carnegie Museum of Art in 1972.
For further information about Joan Mitchell, please visit the Joan Mitchell Foundation web site.