Janet Mitchell

Where Angels Fear to Tread 1964,

Oil on panel
24.25 x 29.75 in


National Council of Jewish Women, Ottawa.
Annual Sale of Paintings 1964.

Janet Mitchell was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 1912 and as a young child, adopted by a Calgary couple. She worked as a chambermaid at the Palliser Hotel, and took evening classes at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now the Alberta College of Art), and in 1942 attended the Banff School of Fine Arts on a scholarship. She was mainly self-taught but in 1959, she studied at a summer workshop with artist Gordon Smith. Before taking up painting full time at the age of 50, she worked at Calgary's federal income tax office, from 1940 to 1962.
She first exhibited her work in 1947, then in 1948 showed her work in the Calgary Group exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, considered to be one of the first modernist painting exhibitions of Alberta artists. Her first one-person show was held in Toronto in 1949. Numerous one-person exhibitions followed, mostly in Alberta, at the Allied Arts Centre in Calgary, Alberta (1963), and in Toronto, and many other galleries across Canada.

Mitchell painted "highly realistic landscapes and townscapes of Western Canada", as well as "whimsical, sometimes dreamlike images in vibrant colors of cats, dogs, birds or fanciful floating people." In the Calgary Herald, Nancy Tousley wrote that "like Mitchell herself, [her] work has a buoyant spirit." She was influenced by Paul Klee and Marc Chagall whose work she saw on a trip in 1950 to New York. In Canadian art, she was influenced by David Milne and by Jock Macdonald who inspired her to explore the unconscious mind from 1946 to 1957.

In 1979, Mitchell was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. She earned an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of Calgary in 1988.
Mitchell continued painting into her later years. On February 26, 1998, she died of cancer. She was 85 years old.