Joan Mitchell Sunflower Paintings

One of my favorite female painters is showing at the Hauser & Wirth Zürich gallery in Switzerland. “Joan Mitchell – Sunflowers” runs from June 6 through to July 25.

I like paintings that look like they were fun to paint. Art doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that for me. Concepts and theories come a distant second. If I can’t relate to the painting of a picture, I move on to the next one.

Joan Mitchell Sunflower Paintings

From the exhibition press release..
“Joan Mitchell’s Sunflower paintings count amongst the most experimental and vibrant of all
her works. In the upstairs gallery at Hauser & Wirth Zürich, six canvases dating from the
1960s and the year before her death, etchings and drawings host an extraordinary diversity of
marks with compositions whose ungovernable vitality refuse to comply to the rules of image
making. Mitchell considered sunflowers to be ‘like people’ — subjects to empathise with
whose life cycles were played out with exuberance but brutal swiftness. ‘If I see a sunflower
drooping, I can droop with it,’ she explained, ‘and I draw it, and feel it until its death.’ Like
van Gogh whose precedent she was brave enough to summon, she embraced sunflowers for
their hopefulness as much as for their assertive and undeniable splendour. Her images do not
much resemble the plants themselves: they are blue and red as well as golden, erratically
dancing sweeps of colour that communicate internal as much as external landscape.”

Here’s a link to the Joan Mitchell Foundation too.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Your statement about liking a painting that looks like it was fun to paint is possibly the best argument I’ve ever heard for kinetic, abstract painting. It’s easy to forget about the fun factor sometimes, so I appreciate the reminder!

  2. If I wasn’t an artist I would see no reason at all to like 90% of art produced today. My reason for liking much of what I like is that I like paint. I love putting it on canvas and I love seeing how others slap it on too.

    I’m not saying I don’t look any deeper than the surface of a painting, but the surface is where all the fun stuff is.

  3. I guess I am just no fun at all. Sorry. Doesnt do anything for me, just looks like smeared colored mud, which it is. The point of art is to build relationships, to create an inner energy, at least for me and my ilk, Modernists. I dont feel any. And bringing in van Gogh and especially Cezanne is absurd. MAYBE Chaim Soutine, but his works still reveled in life and passions being Triggered by the colored mudd, not the joy of finger painting. Not as arrogant as Twombly, or “witty”, but just doesnt get my funless ardour up.

    Guess I have to work on my sense of humor.

  4. Yeah, lighten up Donald :-P

    I wouldnt get too caught up in calling yourself anything either, otherwise you miss a lot. I probably relate to modernists more than any other way of painting, but I can get off on Cy Twombly or conceptual dribble just as much (if it works).

    I just like art.. lots of it.

    I havent seen any decent Cezannes or Van Goghs on my travels either. Australia has very little good art on display. We need a few billionaire philanthropists that like art in Australia as the museums don’t seem to have the funds to buy great art!

  5. I remember back in the 80s when art was a hot commodity one of your fellow Aussies bought a good van Gogh Irises for what was then an obscene amount of money. Our Getty has it now, sorry about that. We still got the best robber barons, and so the best art collections to make them appear civilized.

    The Frick in NYC is very under appreciated. lots of great Constables and Turners, along wiht many pre Salon 18th and early 19th century works. Far better than the British Blue Boy and Pinky of our Huntington Museum, its the gardens there that are incredible. That and Descanso Garden are beautiful places, and artists should attend them more, rather than insipid art openings. Seemed to have done Monet rather well. Got incredible Desert and Jap[anese gardens as well as traditional Rose and Herb gardens.

    I do like most all forms of art, most cultures have something worth seeing. We have been incredibly bare considering the amount of money and kids going into it over the last half entury, has to be a reason, a common denominator for mediocrity. Academys the only answer. Professional inbreeding. So we got Hapsburg painters, rickets and sterility from too much inward limitations.

    Personally, i am definitely in the Modernist tradition, but that is the most open ended tradition of all, like jazz, and allows a huge amount of freedom, again with Purpose and the use of the entire canvas to build a painting, to layer it, to create an inner life that defines it. Not ideas. Like I said, I defintely see Anselm Kiefer in this tradition. Not sure if he does, or cares, but he is very different than all the other contempt artists, this is why.

    i do enjoy a good smearing, thick impasto from guys like Matisse and Rouaults humble yet truly creative teacher Gustave Moreau to Monet to Soutine to Pollock. By the way, i much prefer Pollocks smaller works, no bigger than about 8′ from what i ahve seen. The huge ones are dried out, not thick with impasto, layers of swirling chaos brought into harmonious energies. de Stael used a pallet knife often, as of course did de Kooning, but so far i havent done anything like taht but would if I ever went ful time with my own works, at least expeimented and learned from it.

    I just see too much wasted space in Mitchels and especially Twomblys arrogant ancient ramblings to feel anything beyond mere curiosity. No layering, structure, relationships built towards filing out a skeleton with flesh and blood to create a living thing. Something true to the world, yet not of it.

    I guess my lack of an art school education is showing, Thank God.

    art collegia delenda est

    The no fun guy. Wine, women(woman, sorry babe) and song. Now THATS what I call a full life. Without its often attendant perversions. Moderation in all things, except love. Right Dionysus?

  6. I will say there seems to be accidents in life, and art. While I cant stand his fellow neo Ex types Schnable and Fischl, they are OK by todays standards though, for about a five year period, from 1985-1990, Donald Sultan make some great works.

    He is a poser and dandy outside of that. Weirder things have happened, but those tar encrusted and sructured works, work. Has pretty much created pretty wallpaper ever since. Weird. Just was browing through a bookk of his after not seeing him for over a decade, still get the same feelings. Not bad at all. But still not the power and depth of Kiefer.

    art collegia delenda est

  7. Yeah, Alan Bond, he went broke and spent time in prison. I wish he stayed wealthy enough to pay for the painting and give it to a museum here!!

    There was a nice Georges Rouault head in Melbourne. It was almost hidden, along with a Bernard Buffet and Jean Dubuffet. It was a very conservative museum in general though.

    And I dont like all Twombly but he does have some good stuff that you would like too.

    Must rest.. I drove for ten hours today!

  8. Rouault very underrated, and love Dubuffet’s Art Brut before he burned out and did all those hatching doodles for the rest of his life. Boing. But was great for about ten years. Hard to keep up a true creativity for long. Even Matisse said he was burned out by 1917, and had to retreat for awhile, to much energy, hard self criticism, and emotional exhaustion simplifying painting for twelve years.

    But he had his comebacks. Picasso wasn’t solidly creatively good either. Comes in bunches, and most have only one. Dozens of excellent works during the first 40 years of the 20th century, but most like Delaunay, Malevich, Derain and Leger, even Chagall, fell into professional patterns.

    They had earned it, so not hatin. Just that it is often their mediocre works that influence others, not digging back to what made them great to start with. And academic types, those who talk but dont do, always derive the wrong reasons. They are not verbal, but visually emotional. Its own language, where words often diminish and destroy.

    art collegia delenda est

  9. is this really a painting or just a bunch of paint scribbles on a canvas? what’s the artist’s message here, REALLY?!?!?!

  10. You might lighten up in other ways, like with some of the family. But I wonder how you got so up on the arts? You ought to write me at sometime and touch base at least.

    sent from:

  11. Anonymous says:

    Joan Mitchell would have absolutely abhorred being called a “female painter.” She was playing in the same league as the big boys and wished to be considered solely on the merits of her work.

  12. Maybe it would bother her, but the fact of the matter is that she IS a female painter.

    I think a lot of feminists really hate themselves but they hide behind the banner of female empowerment. There’s nothing wrong with men and women being different.. we’re meant to be different.

    I have no issue with being called a white male painter as that’s what I am.

    I don’t think it matters what labels man puts on man as the art should stand up for itself, but I also don’t think we should feel uncomfortable about calling something by its name; a dog is a dog, a cat is a cat, etc..

  13. I totally agree, art does not have to represent something recognizable, just fun to paint and that’s what matters at the end :)

  14. Thanks so much for this post on Joan Mitchell, one of the most overlooked artists of our time I feel. When I first moved to France and eventually got a car one of the first things I did was to go stalking Joan Mitchell. I’m kidding, she had already died by then, but I did drive out to the samll town where she had lived north of Paris lived to see if I could get a glimpse of her atelier, i.e. her inspiration – even it was a glimpse from afar. Well, you can see the house where she lived in from afar, but not much more, although it is beautiful country. Anyway, I thought I had seen most of her work, but wasn’t familier with these sunflower paintings. Thanks for pointing out this expo. All the best, Aliaena

  15. There is an excellent little Cezanne in the National Gallery of Victoria.

  16. Re: “female painters.” There is accuracy and there is sexism. It would simply be accuracy if we referred to all men painters as “male painters.” Since we do not go out of our way to say “men painters” then why “women painters” or “female painters” unless we are trying to put some people in a “special” category? It is a case of sexism.

  17. Oh we’re all “special” April :-)

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