During a span of fifty years, Milton Avery (1885-1965) created thousands of works of art that inspired the likes of Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, as well as many other Color Field painters. Although some of his earlier work was considered “too radical” by some people, Avery was presented with numerous awards from American art institutions and was then acclaimed as one of the most influential U.S. 20th-century artists before he died in 1965.
Avery was born in Sand Bank, New York, on March 7, 1885. He studied at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford and later at the Art Society School. Humble beginnings forced him to work odd jobs to support and nurture a talent that would not be denied.
In 1925, Avery moved to New York, and during this time, was inspired by the works of Matisse and Picasso. Influenced by both impressionist and abstract art, he began to blend the two styles until he realized his own. Avery's subject matter depicted family, friends and natural landscapes, often reflecting his day-to-day life which included picnics at the beach. He began to simplify his forms into broad areas of close-valued color. When the two styles were forged, his artwork came to life in brilliant landscapes, seascapes and still life, the signature to his fame.
During his move to New York, Milton Avery met and fell in love with illustrator, Sally Michel. The two married and had a daughter whom they named March, born in 1931. Avery’s daughter was the subject for two paintings, Young Girl in Blue and March by the Sea, which are part of the Hunter Museum collection. Milton Avery’s recognition as an established artist came very slowly because he would not change his style to reflect more popular art trends. When abstract expressionism came to dominate American art, he remained true to the style he had created for himself and never wavered.
Avery got his big break when American financier Roy Neuberger took an interest in his paintings. Neuberger purchased more that one hundred of his works, starting with Gaspé Landscape, and donated or lent them to museums all over the world. Avery would finally gain the exposure he was looking for and experience the recognition and respect he was due. The highlight of his career came in 1952 when he enjoyed his first major retrospective exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Milton Avery suffered serious heart attacks when he was at the peak of his career. The last ten years of his life were spent in and out of hospitals. He died January 3, 1965, leaving behind a legacy of work that will live on and continue to inspire future artists for a long time