From 10 October, visitors to the Musée de l’Orangerie will be welcomed on the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collections level by a large polyptych by Joan Mitchell, a work recently deposited on long term loan by the Musée national d’Art moderne / Centre Pompidou. A light, abstract painting, animated with large green and blue brushstrokes, suggesting a view of a garden, The Goodbye Door is the work of an American artist who, in 1967, moved to Vétheuil, a village where Monet painted, not far from Giverny. Her work presents a strong visual echo of the Water Lilies.
Quadriptych. Oil on canvas, H. 280; W. 720 cm
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’Art moderne. Purchased in 1980, on long term loan to the Musée de l’Orangerie, 2017
Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) was born in Chicago. Her father, a renowned doctor and art lover, introduced her to the arts and the world of museums, while her mother, a poet, jointly with Harriet Monroe, edited Poetry, the first magazine to publish T.S. Eliot and works by Langston Hughes, Ezra Pound and Dylan Thomas. Whilst a student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, Joan Mitchell frequently visited Ox-Bow, an art colony operated by the Art Institute of Chicago in Saugatuck. Here she painted en plein air and experimented with lithography for the first time.
In the spring of 1948, having graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and with a fellowship enabling her to study abroad, Mitchell travelled in Europe (Spain and Czechoslovakia), and stayed in Paris, before moving down to Le Lavandou, where, following in the footsteps of Cézanne, her landscapes moved towards abstraction. Returning to the United States in 1950, she settled in Greenwich Village in New York, and became one of the principal artists of the New York avant-garde, involved in many debates and groups, particularly the Artists’ Club with de Kooning and Franz Kline. She had her first solo exhibitions in the autumn of 1950 at the Saint Paul Gallery and School of Art in Saint Paul (Minnesota), then in New York in January and February of 1952, at the New Gallery where she exhibited 16 paintings.
From 1955, Mitchell divided her time between New York and Paris where she was part of the American artists’ community of Montparnasse (Shirley Jaffe, Sam Francis, Saul Steinberg) and where she met the Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle. From March to April 1957, Mitchell exhibited Color in Space (1956) and Hudson River Dayline (1956) in the group exhibition “Artists of the New York School: Second Generation” at the Jewish Museum, New York, with Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Michael Goldberg, Grace Hartigan and Alfred Leslie among the artists presented as "second generation" Abstract Expressionist painters. In April-May 1960, she had her first solo exhibition at the Neufville gallery in Paris, and the following year the MoMA in New York purchased Ladybug (1957).
In 1967, after the death of her mother, Joan Mitchell received a family legacy and bought a property in Vétheuil, a village a few kilometres from Giverny. Monet was said to have used the gardener’s cottage here as a studio. She moved there permanently in 1968, and worked in her studio on a series of polyptychs, constructed in sequences, related but never united, and whose imposing formats, like screens, dominate the spectator. Her painting then became more expansive, a permanent contradiction between an Impressionist view of the landscape inherited from Monet, a powerful and intimate relationship with nature, and light, and the abstract blocks of colour emblematic of the New York Expressionists. The Goodbye Door, painted in 1980, rang out a melancholic farewell to the United States, to her family, to the end of her relationship with Jean-Paul Riopelle (1979), and offers a reinterpretation of Monet’s immersive vision of the landscape.