The Middle Years: Toronto 1951 - 1961 and London 1961 - 1980

Still Lives

Robert Mitchell Still Life with 7 fruit 1951Robert Mitchell Still Life in red
Two great examples of the vibrant colours Robert Mitchell uses in his still lives of the very early 1950s, although very different painting styles.

The work on the left is an oil on paper of 50 x 32.5 cm,
dated London '51, - unusual in the portrait format. The cubist one to the right is an oil on board also from 1951, measuring 40 x 51  cm.

Jackie Beckett

There are some lovely portraits of Jackie surviving, all in red, and created during an short period from late 1951 in London to early 1952 in Toronto.

A couple of black and white photographs with Robert Mitchell's comments show the model in London in 1951.

                                                                                                                                         Jackie, oil on board, 1951, ca 40 x 29 cm

Robert Mitchell Jackie arms raised, 1952Robert Mitchell Red Girl and teacup 1952

Jackie, oil on corrugated cardboard,         Red girl with cup of tea, oil on card, 37 x 47 cm,
51 x 41 cm, dated Toronto Jan. 1952       dated March 52, Toronto

Moving towards Abstract

Robert Mitchell Abstract with red and yellow 1952
Abstract, oil pastel, 47 x 44.5 cm, dated Dec. '52

Robert Mitchell Times Square Doll 1953
"Time Square Doll", oil on board, 49 x 39.5 cm, 1953.
Inscribed verso by Robert Mitchell with title and date of June 1953 "exhibited 1954, SAG (=Strath Art Group) Show Oct 1954 (rejected by Ontario Annual Art Show 1953). Sent home from Toronto in Canada in 1954."

Last works ever exhibited during Mitchell's lifetime

Below are two of five Abstract Expressionist paintings Robert Mitchell had sent from Toronto to be exhibited in Sydney in 1954.
He says on the works shown below: "Exhibited in the 6th Strath Art Group exhibition in Hyde Park 1954. Got good reviews. None sold. These were the last ever, any place I exhibited. Painted in Canada in 1953, using "abstract expressionist" enamel paints and drips and splashes. Also used Kleenex tissues in paint for texture."

Robert Mitchell, painting of 1953Abstract Expressionsm - Robert Mitchell

Enamel paint on canvas, approx 60 x 80 cm, 1953                     Enamel paint on canvas, approx 60 x 80 cm, 1953

Robert Mitchell in Toronto“Pollock got explosion from Kandinsky in Guggenheim when it was Museum of Non-Objective Art. He worked there as an attendant. There was nothing to see of Abstract Expressionism in September 1951 when I went to MOMA. I was annoyed not to see more Abstractville.” 

Robert Mitchell says in later notes:
"Toronto - mid Fifties. I was using string and fabric and acrylic (?) house-paint, deep-texture. "Geometry" may have come from Ad Reinhardt, Mondrian, Malevich and fifty otheres. I think I overworked this one and destroyed it (I gave a few away to friends.) No hope of exhibiting much, even in New York then.

Robert Mitchell at 40Robert Mitchell comments that at 40, he was coming to the end of the Abstract Expressionsm period and had started creating his altered books.

London 1961 - 1980

Robert Mitchell fully immersed himself in the art and music scene of the London of the 1960s and 70s, while working in the furnishing fabrics department of John Lewis, and found time and inspiration to develop his art further. Mitchell drew inspiration from various sources such as the Bauhaus movement, artists Piet Mondrian and Henri Matisse, and also fashion as well as Japanese artists like Korin and Kenzan whose work he encountered in the British Museum.

london1967Mitchell's comments on this photo:
"A photo of a photo of a London 1967 artwork of mine.
Open 3D sculpture - relief - painting.
So many influences, but not (Frank) Stella - his reliefs came later."

matisseRobert Mitchell says: "These two books I bought in London the Sixties. I was aware of Matisse's cut-outs in the late Forties from VERVE art books, and from French MATCH in 1950. The big cut-out "The SNAIL" in the TATE in London always impressed me in the  Sixties and Seventies in London, as did other huge Matisse cut-outs in the big London show of Matisse in the Sixties (?). Recently (1984?) I bought the so-called facsimile of his JAZZ book; paper not as rich as in original, but inspiring."

kenzan"This 1966 book I bought in London then and it was my 'bible' for a while (and still is a favourite).
I was used to Japaneses prints by then, the unusual compositions and off-balances, the 'wrong' things.
Both the impressionistic / expressionistic painterliness in this book surprised me", Robert Mitchell remarks.

Copyright Estate of Robert Boyed Mitchell
Created by Banziger Hulme Fine Art 2007

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