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 Peter Todd Mitchell  (1924 - 1988)

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Lived/Active: New York / Spain      Known for: abstract and representational urban view painting, wallpaper design

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Ad Code: 4
Peter Todd Mitchell
The Open Country, Sardinia
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Peter Todd Mitchell (1924-1988)

He was a very talented painter and writer in Europe and the United States.  Mitchell exhibited at such famous galleries as the Hanover Gallery in London and the Carstairs in New York City.  For many years he supplemented his income as a painter by creating textile and wallpaper designs.
Mitchell's early years were spent in the company of the fashionable and famous surrounding his beautiful playwright mother, who was twice married to the great impressario Leon Leonidoff, Senior Producer of the Radio City Music Hall.  His travels with them and his associations at an early age with a theatrical and literary crowd gave him a taste for the exotic.
After pursuing art studies at Yale University, from which he got a war certificate, and the Accademia de las Bellas Artes in Mexico city, he spent the war years in Naval Intelligence (he spoke five foreign languages, including Russian).  He then went to Paris in 1947 to pursue a painting career.  He was handsome and well-connected, and thus had his first exhibition at Jean Cocteau's Galerie Morihien.
In 1948, the noted fashion designer Omar Kiam came to see Mitchell's paintings, noticed a watercolor done in a loose, fluid style, and thought that the technique could be used in fabric design.  Mitchell did ten designs for him.  With Kiam's advice and the technical help of Bianchini-Férier craftsmen, Mitchell produced a small collection.  He later went on to work with Norman Norell, Adele Simpson and Claude Staron.  Mitchell considered himself the artistic heir of the late Christian Bérard, an artist whose influence on French fashion (Chanel, Schiaparelli) lasted well over a decade.
Peter Todd Mitchell claimed that he was the first American to use totally non-objective designs for dress fabrics.  He remarked that he used to get his ideas from Greek vases, Byzantine mosaics, Renaissance boiserie, Etruscan frescoes and Gothic stained glass windows.  He also created patterns looking at nature: the sun hitting sidewalks, bridge struts, tree branches and flowers.
He eventually attracted the attention of the American wallpaper companies, and by the early nineteen fifties, designed wallpapers and coordinated fabrics for the prestigious New York firm of Katzenbach and Warren.  Commissions followed for a succession of distinguished firms, including Scalamandré, Louis Bowen, Van Luit, Walls Today, Piazza Prints and Coles (England).  His designs are both abstract and representational, ranging form historical scenes (Goya, Chinese watercolors, Indian miniatures) to everyday scenes (Parisian streets, Venetian canals).  He had an extensive career in the wallpaper business.
After moving to Spain in the mid-fifties, he continued a lifelong habit of travels to exotic places, including India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Sardinia, and North Africa.  These trips furnished him with decorative and architectural motifs which he used in both painting and commercial projects.
By the sixties, he was collaborating with his mother on various travel and food projects and succeeded her as a full-time GOURMET writer in 1978.  He also wrote and illustrated two historical novels and many short stories.  He continued to exhibit bi-annually in either London or New York.
His wallpaper and textile designs, as well as his watercolors and paintings, are in thirty museums in America and Europe.
Peter Todd Mitchell died suddenly in Sitges, a small town south of Barcelona, in 1988. 

World traveler, artist and writer, he was truly a Renaissance man.

An article about Peter Todd Mitchell and his mother Fanny by Priscilla Cunningham was published in The Observer, the summer 2010 edition of the Social Register.
His work is in 3 catalogues:
Design 1935-1965--What Modern Was, Designed for Delight, and one published in December 2010 The Century of Modern Design.  All these catalogues are Flammarion.  They are catalogues of the Liliane and David Stewart Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal.  In the catalogue The Century of Modern Design the Mitchell collection is mentioned specifically in the history of the collection.

Peter's work is in 30 Museums world wide.  Most of the works in these museums are designs, but many have watercolors, drawings, and the New Britain Museum of American Art, in New Britain, Connecticut has two oil paintings.

Information provided by Priscilla Cunningham, owner of the Mitchell Collection.

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