MILTON AVERYAmerican 1885 - 1965

Painted in 1945, the present work encapsulates the style and technique that marked one of the most important periods in Avery's career. Structured by flat planes of soft color and crisp, minimal lines, a seated girl confronts the viewer with open simplicity. While her patterned stocking hat draws us to her tranquil expression, we are not confronted by an inner world that lies beneath the surface, but rather by a moment that is in itself complete. Avery described this aspect of his work: "I like to seize the one sharp instant in Nature, to imprison it by means of ordered shapes and space relationships. To this end I eliminate and simplify, leaving apparently nothing but color and pattern. I am not seeking pure abstraction; rather, the purity and essence of the idea - expressed in its simplest form." ('Milton Avery: The Late Paintings', p. 53)

This was a time of bold experimentation for Avery, who in 1944 established an agreement with the avant-garde art dealer Paul Rosenberg that guaranteed the purchase of twenty-five artworks biennially. No longer constrained by financial concerns, Avery's painting underwent a dramatic stylistic change. At the same time Rosenberg expanded Avery's artistic referents. Arriving in America in 1940, Rosenberg brought a cache of great works by artists that he represented in Europe, many of whom, mostly notably Picasso, provided Avery with a new understanding of abstract representation. Barbara Haskell discusses these influences, noting that "Rosenberg's proclivity for taut structure and architectonic solidity encouraged Avery to emphasize these aspects of his work.” ('Milton Avery: Paintings from the Collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art', p. 8-9)

Avery himself would influence a younger generation of artists. His technique of applying paint in thin washes, exemplified by the present work's subtle modulations of lavender and turquoise, informed the work of Color Field artists such as Mark Rothko and Adolf Gottlieb. Indeed this effect – of blocks of color that appear to shift and float before our eyes – is now seen as one of the most original achievements in American painting.
Provenance:
Acquired circa 1981 by Marc Rich, thence by descent
(The Avery archive shows what appears to be the same work as being sold to Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd. in June of 1981)

MILTON AVERYAmerican 1885 - 1965

Avery was raised in Hartford, CT and remained there until 1925, employed as a factory worker and taking art classes from 1911 to 1919. In 1925 he married artist and illustrator Sally Michel and moved to New York City. In New York his style developed as he continued his studies at the Art Students League and became influenced by the works of Picasso and Matisse. By the 1940s his paintings incorporated flat planes of color and texture, as in the present work. In 1949 Avery suffered from a heart attack, which prompted another shift in his work to a more subtle palette. In 1960 the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of Avery's works, which he unfortunately was unable to attend due to poor health. In 1961 Avery suffered a second heart attack and passed away in 1965.

Avery’s work can be found in numerous major public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.