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(1885 – 1965), USA

Milton Avery Biography

One of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Milton Avery (1885 - 1965) is celebrated for his luminous paintings of landscapes, figures and still lifes, which balance distillation of form with free, vigorous brushwork and lyrical colour.

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Born in Altmar, New York, in 1885, Milton Avery moved with his family to Hartford, Connecticut in 1905. After studying at the Connecticut League of Art Students, he worked a succession of night jobs in order to paint during the daytime. Avery moved to New York in 1925 and in 1926 married Sally Michel, whose earnings as an illustrator enabled him to concentrate more fully on painting. His first exhibition in New York was in 1927, though it was not until 1935 that he had his first one-man exhibition, at the Valentine Gallery, New York. In 1944 his first solo museum exhibition opened at the Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, DC. In 1952 he visited Europe for the first time, travelling to London, Paris and the French Riviera. A retrospective exhibition opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1960; a second retrospective was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1982. In 1962 Milton Avery: Painting 1930-1960 by Hilton Kramer, the first monograph on Avery, was published. Milton Avery died on 3 January 1965 in New York, aged 79.

Avery pursued an independent and steadfast course throughout his career. Always drawing imagery from the world around him, in particular the landscapes and people he loved, his art is as intimate and accessible as it is towering in its ambition and achievement. With his focus on simplified forms and use of colour as a primary means of expression, in the 1930s he profoundly influenced and won the devotion of fellow artists including future abstract expressionists Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman. Rothko in particular admired the "gripping lyricism" of Avery's work. However, while seeking to express an idea in its simplest form, Avery never sought pure abstraction for himself. Above all, he is an artist who resists categorisation. "I never have any rules to follow," he stated in 1952, "I follow myself."

Avery's work is represented in museums and private collections worldwide, including: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Tate, London; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art, Madrid, Spain; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.

Text courtesy Victoria Miro.

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Do You Think It Needs a Cloud?, New York, 22nd Street (10 September–10 October 2020). Courtesy Miles McEnery Gallery. 

Milton Avery Featured Artworks

View All (18)
Joy by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryJoy, 1960Ink on paper
27.9 x 21.6 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Sally by the Sea by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AverySally by the Sea, 1962Oil on board
76.2 x 61 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Two Poets by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryTwo Poets, 1963Oil on canvas
127 x 152.4 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Angular Self-Portrait by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryAngular Self-Portrait, 1950Oil on canvas
76.2 x 61 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Hot Moon by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryHot Moon, 1958Oil on canvas
137.2 x 167.6 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Morning Sky by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryMorning Sky, 1962Oil on canvas
81.3 x 121.9 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Young Couple (Husband and Wife) by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryYoung Couple (Husband and Wife), 1963Oil on canvas
127 x 152.4 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Wader by Milton Avery contemporary artwork
Milton AveryWader, 1963Oil on canvas
61 x 76.2 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire

Milton Avery Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Do You Think It Needs a Cloud? at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York
Open Now
10 September–10 October 2020 Group Exhibition Do You Think It Needs a Cloud? Miles McEnery Gallery, 511 W 22nd St, New York511 W 22nd Street
Contemporary art exhibition, Milton Avery, The Late Portraits at Victoria Miro, Venice
Closed
20 July–8 September 2019 Milton Avery The Late Portraits Victoria Miro, VeniceVenice
Contemporary art exhibition, Milton Avery, Solo Exhibition at Victoria Miro, London
Closed
7 June–29 July 2017 Milton Avery Solo Exhibition Victoria Miro, Mayfair, LondonMayfair, London

Milton Avery Represented By

Victoria Miro contemporary art gallery in Wharf Road, London, United Kingdom Victoria Miro London, Venice

Milton Avery In Related Press

Milton Avery’s unique American modernism Related Press Milton Avery’s unique American modernism 23 June 2017, Apollo Magazine

'Why talk when you can paint?' Milton Avery (1885–1965) would say when asked to make statements about his work. The quality of settled calm confidence that underlies this remark shines through equally in the 16 paintings and works on paper in Victoria Miro's new exhibition of Avery's work, the first to be held in London for a decade. The works...

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