Studio Visit: “Little” and “Big” Joan Mitchell


Joan Mitchell lived and worked in a suburb about an hour from Paris called Vétheuil. The house was a rambling stone structure, not grand but very comfortable. In the back was her studio, a separate traditional, skylit artist’s atelier, down a corridor of paving stones set amid beautiful gardens created by Mitchell herself.


From Mitchell’s house one was afforded views of the green-grey Seine, and square and rectangular patches of wheat colored fields in the dusty June light. She talked a great deal about the “beautiful, grey, Ile de France light,” how it brought colors to life. We were introduced by our mutual friend John Cheim. When these photographs were taken, she had not recovered from hip surgery and had top work on crutches – quite unlike the younger Mitchell, who was always scrambling up and down ladders.


Mitchell painted very much alone and needed to isolate herself to do so. She never worked with an assistant. She identified her self as an American painted and hated when critics called her the continuation of French painting. Yet, she stated in an interview in the New York Times, “French artists have a sense of beauty – a sense of color – that isn’t allowed in New York City. To me, painting is French.”


She loved to recite poetry, especially poems about nature, and one could easily see in her the archetypal old-school artist: she swore and smoked and drank; she was ornery, cantankerous, and impossible. I adored her and we became instant friends. She described herself to me as being two people: “little Joan” and “big Joan.” “Little Joan” was the creative child that toiled alone in her studio and “big Joan” went out into the world to protect “little Joan.”


She was simple in appearance yet complex in demeanor, a little girl with a mature exterior. She was a great friend of Beckett’s and a staunch defender of abstraction and the nonlinear. But she had an enormously sentimental side to her and at heart was an old-fashioned romantic. In addition to the time we spent together in her painting studio in Vétheuil, she once took me to a small pastel studio she kept in the city. It was in a traditional 1930s artists’ studio building on the La rue Campagne-Première, a street made famous by Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless but also home to many famous artists, including Rilke, Man Ray, and Atget.

David Seidner

Photographs of Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) and her studio by David Seidner (1957-1999).
Words from David Seidner: Artists at Work: Inside the Studios of Today’s Most Celebrated Artists, Rizzoli, New York, 1999, pp 90-103.
David Seidner Joan Mitchell Foundation

Studio Visit is an occasional series exploring a diverse array of working artists’ studios.

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Happy Canada Day!


Jeff Wall, The Outburst, 1989 (2.1998.i)

Fair labor (labour) standards are issues in both the United States and Canada; Fair Labor Standard Act in the United States and Human Rights and Employment Practices and Labour Codes in Canada were established to prevent the exploitation of workers and commit to a safe workplace for all.

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Weegee Wednesdays: “Happy 4th of July to you… Wish I was with you…”

Weegee, [Letter from Weegee in Los Angeles to Wilma Wilcox in New York City], July 1, 1959 (2009.70.29)

56 years ago today:

Hi Dear…

Everything arrived safe… There is going to be another meeting at CBS Television later this week, about my program.
Will be back soon in New York.

Happy 4th of July to you… Wish I was with you…


P.S. did you check with Con. Edison, about the big bill-

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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Gay Liberation Parade

Anthony FriedkinGay Liberation Parade, The Bible Condemns Homosexuality, Hollywood, 1972 (2011.70.1)

Anthony Friedkin, Come Play with our May Doll, Gay Liberation Parade, Hollywood, 1972 (2011.70.3)

Anthony Friedkin, Women at Gay Liberation Parade, 1972 (2011.70.4)

Anthony Friedkin, Gay Liberation Parade, The Spree Float, Hollywood, 1972 (2011.70.2)

Anthony Friedkin, Gay Liberation Parade, 1972 (2011.70.45)



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Weegee Wednesdays: “I had no phone; I’m allergic to them”

Weegee photos of people on the phone and quotes about telephones from Weegee by Weegee… Yes, this week, I’m phoning it in…

Weegee, A phone booth is a handy place to make a date, ca. 1943 (2123.1993)

Weegee, [George C. Scott as General “Buck” Turgidson and Tracy Reed as Miss Scott on the set of “Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”], 1963 (7511.1993)

Acme was located in the huge Printing Crafts building, at Eighth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street, that had twenty-four hour elevator service and heat all night long. The bench in the darkroom became my bed… I had keys to the office. Early in the evening, after the place had closed for the day, I would come back… One morning, at about four a.m., I was fast asleep when the bells began to ring. That meant a flash was coming over the ticker. The dirigible Shenandoah had crashed in Ohio [September 1925]. I just had to telephone my bosses and tell them. I knew that if I awakened them they would want to know what I was doing in the office at that hour. But the story had to come first.
I telephoned. They came in quickly. They called Ohio and made arrangements for pictures of the crash to be put on the next train for New York… As I had feared, I was now called in on the carpet and told to get out and get a room to sleep in. My squatting days were over… [Weegee by Weegee, p. 31]

Weegee, [Girl from Mars, on the telephone], ca. 1955 (16857.1993)

Weegee, Vicky, ca. 1955 (16893.1993)

…the Missing Persons Bureau was an ideal spot in the evening. In the daytime, it was like a madhouse… At nighttime, with the office deserted, the lonely detective on duty was glad to have someone to chew the rag with. I made and received my personal phone calls, used the typewriter, I sent out bills, and I met my friends there… [Weegee by Weegee, p. 41]

Weegee, “G” Man Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I., ca. 1960 (10857.1993)

In my room, I would have the mail and telegrams slipped under my door. I had no phone; I’m allergic to them. [Weegee by Weegee, pp. 64-65]

Weegee, Double Date, ca. 1955 (4636.1993)

I was thinking of settling permanently in London… As I was working one night in the bathroom, finishing my pictures, my telephone rang. ‘This is the reception desk. The lady in the room underneath you complains that water is leaking into her bed.’ With no place to wash my prints, and being all washed up myself in London, I hopped a plane back to New York. [Weegee by Weegee, p. 148]

Weegee, [Weegee on the telephone], ca. 1955 (22498.1993)

Life is better than ever now. There are new presidents… kings… queens… starlets… public enemies… Hello! Hello! Who’s calling? (I wish the phone would stop ringing.) This is the White House… this is Buckingham Place… this is the Warden of Sing Sing Prison… this is Alcatraz. Oh, so you want pictures? Have you got an appointment? Guess I’d better pack up my typewriter (I wish it had an attachment that could spell and write for me) and my camera and get going to… Paris… London… Berlin… Rome… Tokyo… Hong Kong…
The world is calling, and I’m on my way…
[Weegee by Weegee, p. 155]

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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Harold Feinstein, 1931 – 2015

Harold FeinsteinGirl with Fur Coat, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1950 (567.1982)

Harold Feinstein
, Siddhartha, 1980 (638.1982)

Harold Feinstein
, Boys Running into Surf, Coney Island, 1954 (580.1982)

Harold Feinstein
, Boy in Street with Chalk Numbers, N.Y.C., 1956 (585.1982)

Harold Feinstein
, Horse through Curtained Window, Putney, Vermont, 1975 (617.1982)

Harold Feinstein
, Pink Agnes, New York, 1980 (636.1982)

After a vibrant life and career, photographer Harold Feinstein passed away on June 20, 2015. He was 84.

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Charles H. Traub: Beach portfolio

Charles H. Traub, Beach, 1975 (294.1981.a)

Charles H. Traub
, Beach, 1974 (294.1981.c)

Charles H. Traub
, Beach, 1975 (294.1981.d)

Charles H. Traub
, Beach, 1974 (294.1981.f)

Charles H. Traub
, Beach, 1974 (294.1981.g)

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