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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: The artist; [Stable Gallery, New York]; [Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles]; Mr. and Mrs. Abe Adler, Los Angeles; [Adler Gallery, Los Angeles]; acquired from the above by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, 1977; Friday Foundation, Seattle, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


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

St. Louis, Missouri, Givens Hall Gallery, Washington University, Thirteen American Painters, 1958.

Seattle, Washington, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Art in America: Washington Collections—An American Tradition: Abstraction, Dec. 4, 1981 - Jan. 17, 1982.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 31, pp. 44-45, reproduced.

Pullman, Washington, Museum of Art, Washington State University, Art & Context: The '50s and '60s, Sept. 29 - Dec. 15, 2006. No cat. no., p. 38, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Big Picture: Art after 1945, July 23, 2016 - May 16, 2021 (The Sink on view Nov. 20, 2018 - May 16, 2021).

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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