Milton Avery. American, 1893 - 1965

Avery simplified images and used just the right amount of distortion to get his intense and decorative works.

Artist Statement


Quotes from Prometheus (Bound)

Milton Avery combined a seemingly simple, almost primitive directness with an elegance and color sense that are sophisticated in the extreme. His use of exotic colors, sharp contrast of patterned and plain areas, and great interest in the shapes of patches of color characterize his works.

His earlier works reflect a relatively dark palette and complex organization with many units of color and shape. With time his palette became increasingly bright and decorative. Yellows, oranges and red-purples replaced the greys and muted colors. At the same time the units of which the picture was composed became larger and fewer in number. In his work of all periods there is a sense of sureness and certainty. Just this color in apposition to that! Just this degree of simplification in drawing! Just the amount of distortion, enough to make the figure into a set of color shapes, but not enough to make it grotesque. By his distortions in drawing and color Avery made intense and decorative works out of the most trite subjects, a woman in a rocking chair, bathers on a beach, a still life on a table top. He combined elements of American impressionism with the simplified shapes of Matisse and forged his own unique style.

Throughout his life Avery remained true to his personal vision. He demonstrated that humor, wit, tenderness, sheer love of decoration and gaiety could exist in 20th century art without arousing the suspicion of depending on synthetic emotion.

Prometheus (Bound) No.'s 1 to 33 1961 to 1972 The Philadelphia art world as refle. by Paul Todd Makler, MD. Philadelphia, PA. p.17-18

- From Patterson Sims, "Whitney Museum of American Art: selected works from the permanent collection"

While supporting himself with factory jobs, Milton Avery studied life drawing and painting at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford (enrolling sometime between 1905 and 1911). In 1917 he began working nights in order to paint in the daytime. The following year he transferred to the School of the Art Society of Hartford.

"Avery's landscapes and seascapes of the early 1920s use the heavy impasto, light palette, and atmospheric mistiness of the American Impressionists Ernest Lawson and John Henry Twachtman. With his move to New York in 1925, where he encountered the work of Matisse and the pre-Cubist work of Picasso, Avery began to simplify forms into broad areas of close-valued color. Although Avery's art became increasingly abstract, he never abandoned representational subject matter, painting figure groups, still lifes, landscapes, and seascapes. His mature style, developed by the mid-1940s, is characterized by a reduction of elements to their essential forms, elimination of detail, and surface patterns of flattened shapes, filled with arbitrary color in the manner of Matisse."

"Early in Avery's career, when Social Realism and American Scene painting were the prevailing artistic styles, the semi-abstract tendencies in his work were viewed by many as too radical. In the 1950s, a period dominated by Abstract Expressionism, he was overlooked by critics because of his adherence to recognizable subject matter. Nevertheless, his work, with its emphasis on color, was important to many younger artists, particularly to Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, Helen Frankenthaler, and other Color Field painters."





Milton Avery Drawings, exhibition catalogue 21, 38 pages fully illustrated,
Frederick Baker, Chicago 2001 Price $15.00 plus shipping


Milton Avery

artist statement
artist website

Catalogue Raisonné
Milton Avery Prints 1933-1955 (paperback), Harry H Lunn, Jr, Graphics International Ltd, Washington DC 1973.
In good condition.

© 1995-2018
All rights reserved.
3131 Connecticut Avenue NW
suite #2202
Washington DC 20008