Milton Avery American, 1885-1965
“I am not seeking pure abstraction; rather, the purity and essence of the idea –expressed in its simplest form.”
At the age of 20, Avery enrolled in a lettering class at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford thinking it a potentially profitable skill. He moved to a life-drawing class at the encouragement of the school’s director and began his pursuit and training in the fine arts. Though his education made him a highly competent drawer and portraitist, he looked beyond the traditional artistic modes to the abstract and found inspiration in Matisse and Picasso. He took sketch classes at the Art Students League in New York and befriended Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, and Barnett Newman there. Too abstract for the realists of the 20s and 30s and sometimes not abstract enough for the Abstract Expressionists of the 40s, Avery charted his own course, exploring color in the second dimension without sacrificing representations of the people and places that inspired him. One such source was the sea, and he found masterful, subtle ways to convey its singularity. Avery’s mark on color field painting is undeniable, as was his commitment to capturing the world around him the way he saw fit: in bright color, distilled to its essence.