Twenty years ago, at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, I shook Joan Mitchell’s hand. I was the new wife of an old friend of hers—Paul Auster. They had met in the early seventies through the poet, Jacques Dupin, whom Paul had translated. Jacques also worked at the Galerie Maeght, which showed the art of the man Mitchell was living with at the time, the French Canadian painter, Jean-Paul Riopelle. I had been informed that Mitchell’s character, like certain kinds of weather, chanced a thunderstorm now and again, and I braced myself. But what I remember from that day is that when Joan Mitchell saw my husband, she threw herself into his arms and hugged him. Ten years earlier, the then twenty-four-year old Paul had survived a memorable dinner party given by Jacques Dupin and his wife, Christine. Over the course of the evening, Mitchell had insulted Paul, not once or twice, but steadily, without respite, for hours. While Riopelle, in a spirit of avoidance and contented oblivion, slept soundly on the sofa, the Dupins did their best to follow the barrage of verbal missiles that were flying across the table in English—“Who do you think you are, Lord Byron?” But Paul’s unflappable demeanor under fire (a sanguine mixture of astonishment and amusement) seemed to win the painter’s affection, and after that grueling but never-to-be-repeated initiation, they became friends. It was Joan who introduced Paul to Samuel Beckett, Joan who gave him an etching of a sunflower for the cover of the small literary magazine, Living Hand, that he had started with a friend, and Joan who wanted signed manuscripts of his poems to keep.
KeywordsEarly Seventy Dark Patch Brush Stroke Artistic Achievement Metallic Color
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
Joan Mitchell: Remembering in Color
- 1.Quoted in Klaus Kertess, Joan Mitchell (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997), 9.Google Scholar
- 2.Quoted in Jane Livingston, “The Paintings of Joan Mitchell,” in The Paintings of Joan Mitchell (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 36. Catalogue for the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 20 June–29 September 2002.Google Scholar
- 3.Ibid., 38Google Scholar
- 4.Letter from Joan Mitchell to Barney Rosset (1947) in the private collection of Barney Rosset.Google Scholar
- 5.Livingston, “The Paintings of Joan Mitchell,” 41.Google Scholar
- 6.Letters from Joan Mitchell to Barney Rosset (1948) in the private collection of Barney Rosset.Google Scholar