AVERY, MILTON

Creator

AVERY, MILTON
b. United States, 1893-1965
Milton Avery was an American painter celebrated for his portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. Working with both oils and watercolors, he used broad swaths of luminous color and stylized forms, to capture the essence of a scene without fixating on details. Avery's work is seminal to American abstract painting — while his work is clearly representational, it focuses on color relations and is not concerned with creating the illusion of depth as most conventional Western painting since the Renaissance. Avery was often thought of as an American Matisse, especially because of his colorful and innovative landscape paintings. His poetic, bold and creative use of drawing and color set him apart from more conventional painting of his era. Born in Sand Bank, New York, Milton Avery moved to Hartford, Connecticut, with his family in 1898. He held many jobs, working as an assembler, latheman, and mechanic before enrolling in a lettering class at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford in 1905. The school’s director persuaded Avery to transfer to a life-drawing class, which launched his career in fine arts. From 1926 to 1938, he attended sketch classes at the Art Students League in New York, where he became a friend of Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. In 1938, Avery worked as an artist in the Easel Division of the WPA Federal Art Project. Avery’s early training had prepared him for a career as an academic painter. But by 1930, references to Matisse and Picasso can be discerned in Avery’s paintings, and he began to introduce the simplified forms and flattened space that would, along with clear, unmodulated color, become the hallmarks of his later work. A quiet man who seldom participated in conversations about his art, Avery constantly sketched—landscapes, people, interiors—whatever was at hand. In 1946, Avery spent three months in Mexico, where not only the landscape but the peasants and city streets offered new subject matter. Three years later Avery suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered. Prevented by his health from working out doors, Avery began making monotypes, a medium that requires rapid execution. These monotypes affected his painting style, and after about 1950, Avery increasingly eliminated extraneous detail from his work and began focusing on the harmony of the overall canvas rather than the interrelation of its parts. His independent vision, distilled, vibrant color, and acutely refined forms had secured his recognition as one of the most subtly powerful artists in mid-century America.

Citation

AVERY, MILTON, b. United States, 1893-1965, and Milton Avery was an American painter celebrated for his portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. Working with both oils and watercolors, he used broad swaths of luminous color and stylized forms, to capture the essence of a scene without fixating on details. Avery's work is seminal to American abstract painting — while his work is clearly representational, it focuses on color relations and is not concerned with creating the illusion of depth as most conventional Western painting since the Renaissance. Avery was often thought of as an American Matisse, especially because of his colorful and innovative landscape paintings. His poetic, bold and creative use of drawing and color set him apart from more conventional painting of his era. Born in Sand Bank, New York, Milton Avery moved to Hartford, Connecticut, with his family in 1898. He held many jobs, working as an assembler, latheman, and mechanic before enrolling in a lettering class at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford in 1905. The school’s director persuaded Avery to transfer to a life-drawing class, which launched his career in fine arts. From 1926 to 1938, he attended sketch classes at the Art Students League in New York, where he became a friend of Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. In 1938, Avery worked as an artist in the Easel Division of the WPA Federal Art Project. Avery’s early training had prepared him for a career as an academic painter. But by 1930, references to Matisse and Picasso can be discerned in Avery’s paintings, and he began to introduce the simplified forms and flattened space that would, along with clear, unmodulated color, become the hallmarks of his later work. A quiet man who seldom participated in conversations about his art, Avery constantly sketched—landscapes, people, interiors—whatever was at hand. In 1946, Avery spent three months in Mexico, where not only the landscape but the peasants and city streets offered new subject matter. Three years later Avery suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered. Prevented by his health from working out doors, Avery began making monotypes, a medium that requires rapid execution. These monotypes affected his painting style, and after about 1950, Avery increasingly eliminated extraneous detail from his work and began focusing on the harmony of the overall canvas rather than the interrelation of its parts. His independent vision, distilled, vibrant color, and acutely refined forms had secured his recognition as one of the most subtly powerful artists in mid-century America., “AVERY, MILTON,” UCSB ADA Museum Omeka, accessed September 25, 2022, http://art-collections.museum.ucsb.edu/items/show/4702.