Letter From Paris


Joan Mitchell

Letter sent from Joan Mitchell to Barney Rosset in 1948, originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 104 in 2001.
Photos by Barney Rosset

July 9, 1948

Dear Schmuckie,

Christ how I'm missing you - really - at times life at 1 Fulton St seems like a dream - Gluten (our cat - B.R.) - you & the bridge - it doesn't seem real - like it happened - and anyway you make up your impression of a place starting with the person you lov and building around it. How was Nancy - Jai peur de cette fille - tu comprende - you fucked - no you necked - well a little -no no - which makes me think of Gale -of N.Y. - of you - when please will S.V. (Strange Victory - B.R.) be finished-you must have seen the first print by this time - good? - of course - what I'm asking is when will you be here - I'm lonely - and writing you makes me think of it more and I don't want to think of it more because I don't know why I came in the first place and I haven't all this Promethean strength one is supposed to have and I don't know what to paint next week because I guess I'll begin then and there are no bridges and God I wish you were lying against me now, warm (it's about 45° here) - just being real. Really Barney I don't feel whole without you, something's gone and I keep looking up and down streets for it - what have I done - lots & little I guess besides rereading your letters at every other cafe.


I went to a wonderful discussion-round table. The topic was will France become a Colony of the U.S. - A fantastic man was there Pierre Courtade (leading Communist journalist at that time - B.R.) - very brilliant. Unfortunately the 4 or five people on the right failed to come so the left discussed among themselves - It's amazing the interest that is shown is such things here - so many working class people there, and it's also strange to hear brilliant & witty political discussions. I'm not exaggerating. Of course I get exhausted following French. In a couple of months it should improve. I didn't get in the Momentum show which doesn't surprise me. Maybe the paintings weren't finished enough. I don't know - sometimes I'm no longer sure if I can paint.


I met Taissa - she reminds me of those little professional executive types we saw at Cafe Society that afternoon - superficial "Elaine" ("Elaine"- my nickname for boring Communist functionaries- B.R.) but nice. She lives with a painter whose work I saw & wasn't very impressed. Tomorrow I will see Faith who's studying French etc. I still like her - & yesterday I walked up to the Sacre Coeur - the streets of Montmartre - the studio Picasso first had. It's a little deserted and commercial. The people are all so poor anyway. It's depressing, they don't seem to laugh at all - only walk with their heads down with the brown bread under their arms because there is no white bread. In fact the lower east side is luxurious compared to all of Paris. The children look old and everyone looks dried up and sick. Taissa said the Displaced Persons camps would make a wonderful movie. Right now I'm cold -where are you Schmuckie - why can't I write you what I'm thinking. I think so much of the war when I'm not thinking of you - of people with courage & no stockings, of the collaborators who are all over now, of the confusion. But all the good things we wondered about are here, and Art Magazine that likes Picasso - that's on a very high level and so forth. In fact there is so much that is terrific like that. Can you read these letters - put them on dark background and try. Did those shoes ever come to 1 Fulton St. I suppose not. It's been two weeks and it seems like six months.


Will it be only six weeks more or will it be six months. Sometimes I think something will happen to you and I get frightened - sometimes I think I'll wake up and find you and feel you - and make eggs & bacon & english muffins - and then I think I'm spoiled but really spoiled and feel guilty - but still the reason for things is gone when I remember that there's nothing to come home for and no one to take a bath for and no one to be bitchy to in the morning. Bring blankets. And how is Sager (Clifford Sager, psychoanalyst - B.R.) and Gluten - soft and sleeping among the holes in blue shorts -

I love you darling - & don't be depressed like you sound - just finish the thing and come quickly and we'll go swim in a blue sea - & fuck on yellow sand - without your letters I'd go crazy - bush is crying