Untitled (Nude), 1959
Ink and crayon on paper
11 x 8 1/2 in.
(COA, Milton Sally Avery Arts Foundation)
Milton Avery is celebrated for his intimate portraits, still lifes, and landscapes, painted with broad, rich swaths of color. Born in New York, Avery moved to Connecticut as a young man, and worked jobs in several factories to support himself while taking painting classes at the Connecticut League of Art Students, in Hartford. He moved to New York City in 1925, and studied at the New York Art Students League. Inspired by the work of American Impressionists and French painter Henri Matisse , Avery painted in a representational mode, often depicting portraits of his closest family and friends in addition to American landscapes and seascapes.
His work displayed an increasingly abstract aesthetic over the next two decades, with highly reduced forms in expansive, flat planes of color. Avery’s work was relatively unknown to critics until 1929, when the Phillips Collection in Washington, Dc., became the first museum to purchase his work; later, exhibitions at the Phillips Collection and at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York further solidified his reputation as a master colorist. Often considered a precursor to later American abstract movements, Avery’s work exerted a particular influence on later Color Field painters, many of whom were his friends. His paintings have been exhibited, among other institutions, at the Brooklyn Museum and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Avery is considered by many art experts to be one of the most important American artists of the 20th century.