The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965

Solo en Inglès

“I think that’s what our collection aims to be—to really ground people in the work of the particular moment, but also to show how historical work can have new resonance in our contemporary moment.”
—David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection

Hear from a range of artists, curators, and scholars speaking about works on view.

Joan Mitchell, Hemlock, 1956

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Narrator: Joan Mitchell paints with a powerful brush—often looping and slashing, but sometimes also tapering into a lyrical calligraphic line. This assertive paint application encourages us to look at her work abstractly, focusing on the pigmented surface and overall energy of the composition.  But the painting, called Hemlock, is also a poetic evocation of nature. A concentration of dark paint up and down the center might suggest the trunk of a tree. Leafy green strokes branch out to either side. They are interspersed with large areas of white. You can see small patches of unpainted canvas and white paint that pushes into the foreground, sometimes covering up colored areas. It’s as if the background, or environment, is mingling with our perception of the tree itself. 

Mitchell often painted landscapes and other elements in the natural world. But she once said that her subject was the feeling of nature rather than nature itself. Hemlock, then, is not the tree as it looks, but as it exists in the mind, inflected by everything around it. 

An abstract painting.

Narrator: Joan Mitchell paints with a powerful brush—often looping and slashing, but sometimes also tapering into a lyrical calligraphic line. This assertive paint application encourages us to look at her work abstractly, focusing on the pigmented surface and overall energy of the composition.  But the painting, called Hemlock, is also a poetic evocation of nature. A concentration of dark paint up and down the center might suggest the trunk of a tree. Leafy green strokes branch out to either side. They are interspersed with large areas of white. You can see small patches of unpainted canvas and white paint that pushes into the foreground, sometimes covering up colored areas. It’s as if the background, or environment, is mingling with our perception of the tree itself. 

Mitchell often painted landscapes and other elements in the natural world. But she once said that her subject was the feeling of nature rather than nature itself. Hemlock, then, is not the tree as it looks, but as it exists in the mind, inflected by everything around it. 


Joan Mitchell, Hemlock, 1956. Oil on canvas, 91 × 80 in. (231.1 × 203.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art 58.20 © The Estate of Joan Mitchell