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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

The Sink

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

The Sink


Joan Mitchell

American, 1925 - 1992

Joan Mitchell’s The Sink is a large-scale painting—nearly ten feet in length—produced during a pivotal and transitional moment for Mitchell in the late 1950s. Painted in the years leading to her inclusion in the 29th Venice Biennale (1958), documenta II (1959), and the São Paulo Biennial (1959), it was also before Mitchell permanently relocated to Paris in 1959. Mitchell’s process mined memories and experiences, and the artist often looked to her immediate environment for inspiration. In her paintings, Mitchell was “trying for something more specific than movies of my everyday life: To define a feeling.” The Sink, with its shimmering painterly surface, is believed to be a reference to a natural depression of land in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago—Mitchell’s hometown—and is an exemplar of her process and style.
Oil on canvas
54 5/8 × 111 3/4 in. (138.7 × 283.9 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: [Stable Gallery, New York]; [Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, until September 1960]; [Adler Gallery, Los Angeles]; purchased from gallery by Jane and Richard Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1977
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryNew York, New York, Stable Gallery, Joan Mitchell, Mar. 3 - 22, 1957.

St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University, [Group Show], 1958.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Text by Bruce Guenther and Barbara Johns. Cat. no. 31, pp. 44-45.

Pullman, Washington, Washington State University, Museum of Art, Art & Context: The '50s and '60s, Sept. 29 - Dec. 16, 2006. Text by Chris Bruce, et al. No cat. no., p. 38, reproduced p. 39.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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