|The following information was submitted in May of 2006 by Philip Heilman:|
Fred Mitchell b. 1923, Meridian, MS
Studied: Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, 1942-1943
Cranbrook Academy, Bloomfield Hills, MI, 1946-1956
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1947
Columbia University, NYC, c. 1947
Atelier 17, NYC, c. 1947
Academie de Belles Arti, Rome, 1948-1949
Known as a gifted Abstract Expressionist painter since 1951, Fred Mitchell was a draftsman & painter going back to an early age. Mitchell often painted & drew his local environment around Meridian, MS where he grew up. From an early age his interest lay in modern art. He was well informed of the latest art trends having seen and read about them in art books and magazines. In 1942 Mitchell attended the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh on a Scholastic Magazine Art Scholarship. There he met and became friends with painter Philip Pearlstein.
In 1943 Mitchell was drafted into the US army where he served by teaching mechanical drawing for the army in Maryland and Chicago. After the war Mitchell attended Cranbrook Academy for two years where he further studied and practiced an advanced modernist/regionalist style of painting. In 1947 he won a national Pepsi Cola cash award of $1,500 for his oil painting Sawmill, a highly advanced work of semi cubist figures and forms depicting men working in a southern sawmill. An exhibition for the award winners was organized by The National Academy in New York City and traveled to The Rochester Memorial Art Museum. Mitchell used the award money to travel to Italy and paint. After some travel around Europe, Mitchell settled in Rome for three years. There he met several American painters including Angelo Ippolito and John Heliker who were older and working in a more advanced expressionist painting style. This made a large influence on Mitchell's work. In Rome he also met Afro (Basadella) an important Italian expressionist painter and American painter Philip Guston; both painters also had a enormous influence on Mitchell.
In 1951 Mitchell moved to New York City and became one of the first painters to open a painting studio in downtown Manhattan in the seaport area along the East River known as Coenties Slip. Coenties Slip consisted of old, large, and cheap cold water lofts. Mitchell started an art school nearby in the old Seaman's Church Institute. During the ensuing years other artists moved into Coenties Slip lofts including Ellsworth Kelly (introduced to the area by Mitchell in 1951) Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin, Jack Youngerman, James Rosenquist.
1952 Fred Mitchell along with Angelo Ippolito and fellow artists Lois Dodd, Charles Cajori and William King organized Tanager Gallery on East 9th Street as an artist's cooperative gallery with a loan from painter Pearl Fine (Fine's father agreed to pay the gallery rent for a while to get it established). Tanager Gallery quickly became known as the most influential and respected co-op gallery in New York just as the Abstract Expressionist movement swept the art world.
Mitchell's first New York solo show was at Tanager Gallery in 1952 with solo exhibitions also in 1954 and 1960. Philip Guston introduced Mitchell to other artists at the Cedar Tavern. Philip Pavia brought him to 'The Club' in New York. The world of talented painters and sculptors in New York City was small, and Mitchell became friends with many of them during this period including Franz Kline, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg who both lived above Mitchell loft on Front Street in New York. Over its ten year history Tanager Gallery showed most of the best painters & sculptors including older masters Philip Guston, Ad Reinhardt, Willem De Kooning, Franz Kline, Barnet Newman, Philip Pavia, and became a important platform for showing & introducing many new artists including early showings by Johns, Rauschenberg, Tom Wesselman, Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, Bill King, Helen Frankenthaler, Norman Bluhm, and many others.
In 1954 Mitchell's oil painting 'Black White and Red' was included in the landmark Guggenheim Museum show 'Younger American Painters'. Curated by James Johnson Sweeney the exhibition traveled to The Dallas Museum of Art and The Detroit Museum. In 1953 and 1954, Mitchell was included in the prestigious 'Stable Gallery Annual Exhibition'. In 1955 Mitchell returned to Cranbrook Academy to teach for several years while also exhibiting in New York and Cleveland as well as traveling back to Positano, Italy. During the mid to late 1950's, Mitchell exhibited at Howard Wise Gallery in Cleveland. Wise opened a second gallery in 1960 in New York City, and Mitchell had two solo shows there.
Throughout the 1960's to the 1990's, Fred Mitchell exhibited in numerous museums and galleries including: The Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis MN, 'Vanguard '55'; Roko Gallery, NYC; Landmark Gallery, NYC; The Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC; Museum of Modern Art, New York; SUNY Binghamton, NY; Munson Williams Proctor Institute; The South Street Seaport, NYC; U. of Oregon Art Museum; Jackson MS Memorial Art Museum; The Bronx MoA; The Wooster Art Center, Danbury,CT; Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery,NYC; Tabakman Gallery, NYC; Susan Teller Gallery, NYC; Pace Gallery,NYC; ULAE Workshop Gallery, NYC; Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago. Mitchell's most recent solo exhibitions were held at David Findlay Jr Fine Art, NYC in 2003 and Noel Fine Art in Bronxville, NY in 2005.
In addition to a busy exhibition schedule since the 1950's, Fred Mitchell taught art painting and drawing at Cranbrook Academy; New York University; The Fred Mitchell Workshop downtown New York; Kingborough College, Brooklyn,NY; Louisiana State University, The Arts Students League (for 20 years) New York, NY. Michell's painting are in the permanent collections of The Columbus MoA and The Weatherspoon Museum of Art as well as many private collections.