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11 Property from a Distinguished European Collection Joan Mitchell Follow Champs signed 'Joan Mitchell' lower right; further inscribed 'Simple' on the reverse oil on canvas 240 x 200 cm (94 1/2 x 78 3/4 in.) Painted in 1990.
Provenance Galerie Jean Fournier Paris Collection Jean Fournier and Jean-Marie Bonnet, Paris Artcurial Briest Le Fur Poulain F. Tajan, Paris, 28 October 2006, lot 38 Private Collection (acquired at the above sale) Sotheby's, New York, 14 May 2013, lot 26 Duhamel Fine Art, Paris Acquired from the above by the present owner Exhibited Paris, Galerie Jean Fournier Joan Mitchell Champs , 30 May - 14 July 1990, no. 12 Literature La couleur toujours recommencée: Hommage à Jean Fournier marchand à Paris (1922–2006), exh. cat., Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 2007, p. 143 (illustrated) Catalogue Essay Painted in the final years of Joan Mitchell’s remarkable career, Champs from 1990 is a commanding testament to the creative vision and highly lauded painterly abilities that culminated with some of her strongest, most powerful work. A vibrant celebration of the physical act of painting, the present work articulates Mitchell’s fusion of disparate artistic movements to create a singular style that is entirely her own. Though the gestural style of her American contemporaries–artists such as Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning–shaped her abstract painterly idiom, Mitchell’s profound appreciation for the beauty of the natural world fostered in her a strong connection to the French Impressionists and European Post-Impressionists, whose luminous landscapes were equally influential to her work. In Champs , Mitchell draws upon a prismatic range of colours, not unlike those of Claude Monet’s late garden paintings, to create striking contrasts: bracketed on either side by pearlescent yellows and glowing whites, the central composition comprises dashing strokes of brilliant cobalt, inky blacks, verdant greens, effervescent marigolds, and juicy tomato reds. Forming what appear to be six stacked bands, the composition seems to manifest in the flat two dimensional planarity of the canvas, the impression of fields of differing flowers or even crops unfolding before the viewer. The texture of the work is similarly varied, as Mitchell showcases the remarkable range of an abstract vernacular she shaped and perfected over the decades of her prodigious practice. Not content merely with wide, sweeping brushstrokes, here she renders the paint in both staccato dashes and larger undifferentiated areas of colour, all punctuated with superbly tactile, almost rain-like, drips and splatters of paint. In spite of the physical limitations imposed by old age, Mitchell’s late paintings are characterised by a striking painterly bravura; remarking upon the emotional power and energy embodied in works such as Champs , Richard D. Marshall comments, 'The paintings that Joan Mitchell created in the last decade of her life reveal an artist who showed no restraint. She immersed herself in them, abandoning cognizance, rationality, and objectivity. Direct and immediate, they are the work of an artist using her failing strength and strong emotion to express her intellect and her anger, as well as the joy she derived from the very act of painting' ( The Last Paintings , exh. cat., Cheim & Reid, New York, 2011, n.p.). Despite the painting’s literal title and obvious, if abstracted, allusion to the natural world, the painterly impetus is focused on the emotional undertaking of a painter completely absorbed and consumed by her process and dedication to painting. Much like an earlier practitioner who was also equally determined to render in paint emotional facets of the human condition, Mark Rothko Mitchell was resolute not simply to paint highly abstracted impressions of the natural world. For her, the impetus was to render her own multivalent and highly-charged emotional states while also evoking in the viewer an acutely charged emotional response. Interestingly, each also found, in the hovering rectangular format, a compositional tool by which to effect this reaction. Rothko’s panes of diffuse, ethereal colour, here give way to more tangible, allusive, compositional structures redolent o
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