1912 - 1993
Dancing Chair Leg 1953
signed, dated and inscribed in pencil
Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives
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This rare early carving was sold when it was first exhibited at the Penwith Society of Arts in the early 1950s and remained in private hands until Mitchell bought it back late in his life in 1990.
Denis Mitchell was born in 1912 in Wealdstone, Middlesex. The family moved to South Wales when he was a young child and it was while growing up there that he developed an interest in art. He moved to Cornwall in 1930 and initially earned a living working with his brother to renovate cottages. Drawn to the artistic community at St Ives, it was there that he began to paint seriously and engage with other artists.
He married in 1939 and during the Second World War worked as a miner at Geevor. This experience of hewing rock fuelled an interest in sculpture and at the end of the war, Bernard Leach suggest his name to Barbara Hepworth as a studio assistant in 1949. An initial day of work led to a 10 year long collaboration in which he was principal assistant and supervised the creation of many of Hepworth's sculptures. By the early 1950s, he was creating many sculptures himself.
In 1955, Mitchell was elected chairman of the Penwith Society of abstract artists and worked out of his own studio in Fore Street, St Ives. He left Hepworth's service in 1959 and became known in the 1960s for his polished bronzes, achieving international recognition with exhibitions in New York and London.
From 1960 he taught at Redruth School of Art and Penzance Grammar School. In 1967 he gave up teaching to commit to full time sculpture and moved to Newlyn to share the large studio of his friend and fellow artist John Wells.
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Denis Mitchel photographed by Ida Karr in 1961