Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter
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Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter

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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  100 ratings  ·  29 reviews
“Gee, Joan, if only you were French and male and dead.” —New York art dealer to Joan Mitchell, the 1950s

She was a steel heiress from the Midwest—Chicago and Lake Forest (her grandfather built Chicago’s bridges and worked for Andrew Carnegie). She was a daughter of the American Revolution—Anglo-Saxon, Republican, Episcopalian.

She was tough, disciplined, courageous, dazzlin...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.9* of five

The Book Report: This is a life, not a biography, in the sense that it offers more of a rounded picture of Joan Mitchell than a rigorous analysis of her milieu and her position and her place in history. Mitchell, a hard-drinking, hard-loving, hard broad, is famous if you know who she is, and invisible if you don't. I suspect that would make her really, really mad. Mitchell was a daughter of privilege, wealthy dermatologist father and novelist/poet/editor ([[Marion Sobel Mitch...more
Richard MacManus
I bought this book at the MoMA in New York, where sadly there were no Joan Mitchell paintings on display. I asked at the information desk. "Joni Mitchell?" "No, *Joan* Mitchell." MoMA does have some of her paintings in its collection, but inexplicably none were on display. It was the same at The Met and (most disappointingly for me) The Whitney. I tried to find a Joan Mitchell elsewhere in New York too, but I didn't uncover any. This is bizarre to me, given that she was a member of the so-called...more
Kathleen
1. So far it's a tedious review of family history. Interesting that Mitchell's grandfather was an engineer who built bridges, including the original Van Buren Street drawbridge in Chicago.
2. Now I'm in her NY days. I do not like her, which is good. It means the book is honest. It portrays Mitchell as fastidiously self-serving. OK, she's also deeply troubled. And bent on being an artist. I'm at the part where she despises her wealthy parents, while living off their $$, of course. Once her father...more
Jee Koh
An informative biography, full of details about Mitchell's family background, love affairs and artistic struggles. Her desire to be "one of the boys" of the New York School. Her fear of abandonment and death. Her steadfast love of van Gogh. She painted from the memory of a landscape, until she abstracted it in the idiom of Abstract Expressionism. The writing of the biography is in places too breezy and purple for my taste. The biographer clearly admires her subject, but does not hide her flaws.
Carolynz
This was a grueling book to get through. Joan was a hard person to like and an even harder person to read about. The episodes containing her mistreatment of friends and the passages about her drinking alone are disheartening. That being said, I can't stop thinking about her story, even a few weeks after I'm done reading.

I consider her one of my favorite painters so I came to the book as a fan. I had no idea she led such a privileged life growing up. I agree the backstory spelling out the histor...more
Ed Smiley
Not everyone will "like" Joan Mitchell. A classic "difficult" personality, she struggled with the gender bias of the fifties Abstract Expressionist era to become an accomplished and successful painter. She emerges as as an amazing individual, indomitable, sexy, loud, alcoholic, vulgar, passionate, socially brutal, insecure, ambitious, fearful, moody, vindictive, devoted to her friends and lovers, and haunted by the demons of memory and emotion, which she experienced directly as color and form. T...more
Jeannine
Delighted to discover a new-to-me artist in Joan Mitchell whose paintings stir me.

I'm learning that art and artist are separate entities and one can appreciate one and not the other. For example, earlier this year I read Flannery O'Connor's letters and came away with enormous admiration for her talent, vision, and character, but found her fiction very difficult to read. In that case I value the artist, not so much the art.

With this book, it's the reverse. Love the art, but Mitchell the artist,...more
Manda
I wish Patricia Albers could write as well as Mitchell could paint.

It's frustrating to read descriptions of breakthrough or outstanding paints without an image to reference; this volume should have had many more images of Mitchell's work, as where she was and who she was with had so much influence on what she painted. Albers' fact-checking is sloppy; for example,Mitchell was in the 1989 Whitney Biennial; there was no Biennial in 1990, as stated in the book. There is a lot of speculation and di...more
Patricia
This is a really fine book - I kept having to google each painting as it was discussed, and luckily, I had seen quite a few of them before reading this.

“There's something in this richness that I hate”, wrote Elinor Wylie in her poem, Puritan Sonnet. This comes to me later, after long looking and reading, when visual hunger is deeply sated, and turns away. But after all, no, I don’t think so. It’s Wylie whose pain has metamorphosed to cold stone, while Mitchell’s anxious, existential self genera...more
Louise
It's hard to believe Joan Mitchell, that crusty, alcoholic, modernist pioneer was not just an ice skater, but a champion figure skater in her youth. There is a lot else fascinating about her beginnings such as her mother's career in poetry, her own poetry, her diving, and her enrollment at the Parker School despite her father's conservativism and racism.

Success in sports, a coveted education, marriage to a man who loved her, and family wealth that permitted her to pursue her passion were not eno...more
mim
I'm surprised that I liked this book. Really. The author ticked me off at times with her use of "big" words - like "antipodes" for example. I felt like she was showing off her vocabulary for her own sake. And she loaded paragraphs with names, one after the other, names. Of course, lots of them were artists that were well known though there were others that seemed so part of the art movement of the time, yet I'd never heard of them. And then there were the people I'd heard of, the well known arti...more
Mike Tracy
I love her work- definitely in my top ten, but what emerges is a portrait of a thoroughly unlikeable person. I also suspect that the story of her artistic life would have been completely different had she not come from a family of means who supported her financially for many years while she established herself. The moral: the best way to be an artist is to be born wealthy. Still, she spent it well.
Dave Holcomb
Very readable, but very grim. My only real complaint, however, is the way the writer describes or refers to various pieces of artwork throughout the book, but then does not provide photos. There are only a half-dozen or so reproductions of Mitchell's art included, and none of them is all that relevant to the text.
Carol
Just once, I would love to read a bio of a visual artist that reads like this: "He/She was really sweet, drank only socially, didn't smoke or do drugs, and loved his/her spouse. And, he/she was a great artist." Guess not. Joan Mitchell sounds like a foul-mouthed bitch, a heavy drinker and smoker, emotionally distant and unable to form healthy relationships with men. Her one redeeming factor was her generosity to young artists. Still, the book was interesting in its depiction of how a nontraditio...more
Ivan
Another test of my Frank Sinatra rule: that an artist can be mean mean mean while their art can be nice nice nice. This author only starts, and then only starts again, to engage the wonder of these paintings, and instead chooses to psychologize a seemingly indulged, lifelong child. But like the biographies of DeKooning and Pollock, I can never get enough descriptions of the Cedar Bar in the 50s, and a time when poetry and music were more entwined with the milieu of visual art than they are now.
Terri Dowell-dennis
You can tell that Patricia Albers loves her subject. This biography ebbs and flows. At one point, I thought I would likely not finish it. The tale is a brutal read, often depressing, and as I looked at Mitchell's work on line I began to feel as though this artist needed an editor and no one was quite up to taking on the task. I wish there were more illustrations in the book to accompany Albers vivid descriptions. What remains is to see some of Mitchell's paintings now.
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
OFTEN CLASSIFIED AS a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Joan Mitchell owed as much to the School of Paris as she did to the New York School. A card-carrying member of the Eighth Street Club and a regular fixture at the Cedar Tavern, she considered her friend and lover Willem de Kooning her father and her Freudian analyst Edrita Fried her mother. Read more...
Emily
Her art didn't interest me as much as her life. Her mother was the editor of Poetry magazine, she flirted with Carl Sandburg, and she married Barney Rosset, who ultimately founded Grove Press. Radically her own person, Mitchell was equally tough on herself and on the people she called her friends. This bio is juicy and articulate, like Mitchell herself.
Erin Fickert-Rowland
As a female abstract painter working today, I appreciated Patricia ALbers' in-depth portrait of Joan Mitchell's brilliant talent and frequent struggles. I have written a more in-depth review here: http://blog.elysianstudiosart.com/201...
Alyson Plante
I always melt when I see Mitchell's paintings. Yet even as a Mitchell fan, this wasn't a smooth read for me -- a lot of picking it up and putting it down. With that said, my copy is now highlighted and dog-eared, so I'm not complaining. Will read it again, I'm sure.
jennifer
Jul 10, 2011 jennifer marked it as to-read
"I did lots of good drawings today, and read lots of Marx and wanted so to get in the Oldsmobile and pinch and bite and be generally irritating and fuck and then drink six cups of coffee and talk about China."
Randine
I did a review on another book called "The Paintings of Joan Mitchell" and the review is really meant THIS book, which is a biography of the artist. Very good!
Patty Hankins
I really enjoyed the parts of #Ladypainter that dealt directly with Joan's art - and her experiences as a woman in what is often perceived as a man's field.
Agatha Nettles
Informative for sure but for me it didn't "sing" as a biography.
Virginia Bryant
good illustration of how even those most blessed among us have hellaciously difficult lives.
Susan

This was a good book....lots of history about the US along with the life of Joan Mitchell.
Cynde
Tough woman; tough, persevering art maker.
Kaveri
Dec 12, 2011 Kaveri rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
Joan Mitchell was a real piece of work!
Kensington Reading
Kensington Reading marked it as to-read
Aug 21, 2014
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Patricia Albers is the author of Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, art journals, and museum catalogs. She has curated many exhibitions, among them Tina Modotti and the Mexican Renaissance. She lives in Mountain View."
More about Patricia Albers...
Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti Tina Modotti the Mexican Renaissance The Hidden Half: Studies of Plains Indian Women Hidden Half, The: Studies of Plains Indian Women Vita Di Tina Modotti: Fuoco, Neve E Ombre

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