Milton Avery

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Milton Avery

1893 - 1965

Milton Avery is one of the most significant American artists of the twentieth century and a leader in modernism internationally. He painted the figure and domestic interiors, but was also well known for his unique landscape work. Avery was a pivotal link between the American Scene painting of the 1930s and Abstract Expressionism, as his work bridged a gap between realism and abstraction – it was abstracted and simplified, but did not abandon all reference to natural forms. His paintings are known for their simplicity, serenity and harmony, sophisticated colour palette and a flattening of form.
Born in Altmar, New York, Avery studied at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford, then moved to New York City in 1925. He took classes at the Art Students League of New York and by 1928 was exhibiting in that city. In the 1930s, Avery associated with well-known artists there such as Marcel Duchamp, Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko.
Avery was influenced by German Expressionism and French Fauvism – in particular, Henri Matisse’s innovative use of colour and space. However, he took an independent stance, and his work stood outside of any movement or prevailing trend, which confounded critics.
The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC was the first museum to mount a solo museum exhibition in 1944. In 1945 two of the leading dealers in modern French art in New York, Paul Rosenberg and Durand-Ruel, held concurrent exhibitions in their New York galleries.
In the 1950s, there was an important change in Avery’s work – he thinned his pigments to the consistency of watercolour, laying on his colour like a transparent veil, resulting in the picture surface seeming to dematerialize.
By the 1960s, Avery’s work was being reappraised - appreciation for its originality rose, and he emerged as a major figure in twentieth century art. In 1982, New York’s Whitney Museum mounted a retrospective of his work. Avery’s paintings are in prominent museum collections both in the United States and internationally.