Monday, December 7, 2009

Artist of the Week - Milton Avery - American Modernist

1885  - 1965

 most images can be enlarged by clicking


 Still-life with Self-Portrait  c.  1930

The son of a tanner, Avery began working at a local factory at the age of 16, and supported himself for decades with a succession of blue-collar jobs. The death of his brother-in-law in 1915 left Avery, as the sole remaining adult male in his household, responsible for the support of nine female relatives. wikipedia


  At the beginning of his career, when he lived in Connecticut, Milton Avery (1885-1965) was influenced by American Impressionists--Inness, Lawson and Twachtman. But when he moved to New York in 1925 he was exposed to a wider variety of contemporary work and his work became more abstract, though always remaining recognizably representational. Matisse was a strong influence on him and, in turn, his brilliance as a colorist influenced a generation of Color Field painters. 


 Portrait of Annette Kaufman 

Wife of American violinist Louis Kaufman

Annette Kaufman standing with portrait

Milton Avery brought together simple, spare forms and harmonious colors to build patterns of flat, interlocking shapes reminiscent of French artist Henri Matisse. He frequently depicted family, friends and the familiar landscapes, simplifying and refining the imagery into strong formal patterns.


Black Chemise  


 The Group (After Dinner Coffee)  





The Three Graces


Sally Avery
(the artist's wife)

Early in his career his work was considered too radical for being too abstract; when Abstract Expressionism
became dominant his work was overlooked, as being too representational.

Sketching by the Sea      

"Nature is my springboard. From her I get my initial impetus. I have tried to relate the visible drama of mountains, trees, and bleached fields with the fantasy of wind blowing and changing colors and forms."      ~ Milton Avery

Salmon River

Girl in a Blue Nighgown

(Sara, the artist's daughter)

Susan Stamberg describes the works as abstract but accessible. "The paintings of Milton Avery are rooted in home and hearth," she says. "He was a very personal painter. A painter of the familiar -- his family, his studio, a seascape he loved. And friends" NPR -"Discovering Milton Avery"








Birds and Sea

woodblock print


Chinese Checkers


Although never associated with a particular movement, Avery was a key modernist who influenced succeeding generations of artists including Color Field painters Mark Rothko.




by clicking on the image above, you can check thumbnail versions of more rare works by Avery, that are protected by copyright laws

Art Net  

The Archive 

 NPR online "Discovering Milton Avery

 D.C. Moore Gallery

The Butler Institute of American Art

New York Public Library

 New York Times:  Milton Avery works stollen in Florida



  1. I do admire Avery. Of those you have shown, I am particularly fond of his self-portraits - and would you believe - the cow. Just something about it.

  2. Another artist I have never heard of. I've also never heard the phrase "Color Field" painters. I like the colors in Avery's paintings. His images simple, but then again, defined as you look at them.
    Thanks for yet another art lesson.


  3. Magnificent!
    I went through this post yesterday, and my mind keeps coming back to Sally Avery (the artist's wife). Masterpieces from a master.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a feast! And such simple, spare pieces. Many of these made my heart sing, they are so delightful. I could eat that green table in "The Group" - with a spoon! Yum! And that yellow cow! And the standing self portrait! And those Chinese checkers!!! These are so free! I've got to come look at these again later, when I have more time to think, and then to consider my own work in their light.

    Your taste is brilliant.

  5. Bobbie: I too love his self-portraits. He painted many. I'm just mad in love with this artist right now. Thanks for visiting.

    Spadoman: you have the heart of an artist, as revealed by your comments. I'm so glad you like the art and that you tell me you do!

    Liza: that's interesting. I love that painting of Sally Avery. It reminds me so much of me at a certain age - perhaps in my 20s. I was drawn to it because of that, went looking for more Avery images and that is the history of this post. It's great to get a comment from you.

    Steve: your comments are so revealing of your passion for art. I love how unfettered you are toward that passion.

  6. I came back for more. I have felt that some of my paintings have been too simple - but these have made it clear that simple is fine - simple can be better, depending on the subject and the artist's desire.

    Still love that green table... and Sketching by the Sea, and the unnamed one above the Susan Stamberg info (the room with the woman on the couch).

    I dislike Black Chemise. I think the composition is ugly and the figure lacks any sort of charm. The thought that went through my head was, "Why paint this?" Many of these are not flattering to the subjects - but they have charm. That one doesn't, for me.

    Thanks, again, for posting these. And for your comments about my passion. Art is like food or love-making for me. Same power.

  7. Aaaaaaah, Steve - you would come back for more! I love your passion.

    I agree about Black Chemise. I don't like it either. And that's exactly why I posted it. Wait. Not because I don't like it but because I too wondered why he painted it that way. Maybe a mood, a memory, a fleeting, drowsy glimpse? Who knows. It's not beautiful, but it IS interesting. To me.

  8. Steve is right - a feast. I'm fond of the yellow cow and I love the still life of the flowers in the vase. I wonder why in the one self-portrait, his ears are so red.

  9. Lisa - the ears are red because we are all talking about him.


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