History And Context
August, Rue Daguerre was painted relatively early in Mitchell’s artistic career, after she successfully assimilated the techniques of gestural abstract expressionism and had created a personal, poetic style. In New York during the 1950s, she had admired the dynamic canvases of de Kooning and Kline, both of whom became her friends. In her own work, she integrated their energetic brushstrokes and spatial tensions with her own sense of lyrical color infused with light, as inspired by her favorite artists, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse.
From 1955 to 1959, Mitchell divided her time between New York and Paris, eventually settling permanently in France. As its title suggests, August, Rue Daguerre was painted during one of her Paris stays in 1957. In spite of its title, however, and although her initial inspiration derives from external sources, the painting is not a mere cityscape of a particular street view, but rather an interpretation of her feelings. In her effort to imbue her art with feeling, she tapped her visual memories, painting from remembered landscapes. In doing so, her intent differs from that of the original abstract expressionists, who wished to communicate the profundities of the "inner self" or a collective human consciousness. Instead of personal evocations of self, Mitchell’s paintings are poetic responses to the landscape itself.
Her desire to impart a poetic sensibility in her art is equal to her interest in the independence of the painting as a composition of form, space, and color. Although they appear to have been quickly executed and spontaneous, Mitchell’s paintings are products of careful contemplation and studied paint application; balance is achieved across the active surfaces of her paintings.
In August, Rue Daguerre, deep reds, blues, and browns are painted in broad, arcing, strokes against a white ground. In a type of "editing" process, Mitchell applied patches of white paint over some of the colors to create spatial ambiguity. Heavy impasto in some sections reveals frequent reworking, while spatters of paint in other areas display spontaneous paint application. The varied textures coupled with the network of bold brushstrokes inAugust, Rue Daguerre evoke Mitchell’s personal response to the verve and energy of a bustling Paris street.