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Milton Avery: The Late Paintings


The first survey to explore the late paintings of one of the most influential American modernists, Milton Avery: The Late Paintings premieres at the Milwaukee Art Museum on November 30, 2001, where it remains on view through January 27, 2002. Along with Milton Avery: The Late Paintings, the Milwaukee Art Museum will exhibit Wisconsin Collects Avery. This exhibition will contain MAM's Avery artworks, as well as works from Wisconsin institutions and private collections.

Milton Avery: The Late Paintings, organized by the American Federations of Arts and supported by the National Patrons of the AFA, comprises more than 50 exemplary paintings produced in the last two decades of Avery's life (1885-1965). The works feature nudes, interiors, seascapes, landscapes and Avery's eloquent Self-Portrait (1947), depicting the artist with brush in hand surrounded by his own paintings. The paintings were executed between 1947, when Avery had his first gallery retrospective, My Daughter, March (a survey of his own art and a celebration of his daughter's life), and 1963, when he was forced to stop painting due to poor health.

Avery is celebrated for his bold experiments with color and his spare, graceful style. During his lifetime, Avery combined aspects of Impressionist subject matter with American interest in the everyday and Abstract Expressionist color and handling, effectively uniting American traditions and modernism. In the 1950s and early 60s, Avery intensified the contradictions between representation and abstraction in increasingly larger canvases, some measuring as much as five by six feet, and explored extreme simplification of forms. (left: Red Rock Falls, 1947, oil on canvas, Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley)

"Avery's common subjects and simple forms invite viewers to take the images at face value, but upon careful examination, his paintings reflect a powerful play between realism and abstraction," said Russell Bowman, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. "They also have a wit and vitality that make them wonderfully accessible."

Frequently considered the last of the American painterly figurative artists, Avery is reassessed in this survey as a pioneer and forerunner of a new generation of artists. He had an enduring influence on mid-century American art and was an inspiration to younger Abstract Expressionists such as Adolph Gottlieb and Rothko, both life-long friends of Avery. In Avery's eulogy, Rothko acknowledged the debt that he and others owed, "For Avery was a great poet inventor who invented sonorities never seen nor heard before. From these we have learned much and will learn more for a long time to come."

A fully illustrated catalogue published by the American Federation of Arts and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., accompanies the exhibition. Milton Avery: The Late Paintings features an extensive essay by Robert Hobbs, examining the philosophical underpinnings of Avery's style and the ways in which modernist themes culminate in his late work. It also appraises the role that Avery played in the formation of the Color Field painters of Abstract Expressionism. A seminal essay on Avery by Clement Greenberg that originally appeared in the December 1957 issue of Arts Magazine, and was later revised by the author, is reprinted. The renowned critic placed Avery in the vanguard of a tradition that united abstraction and representation, applying American ingenuity and an international sensibility.

The exhibition Milton Avery: The Late Paintings allows the Milwaukee Art Museum to highlight its own Avery collection and the acquisition of Avery works among Wisconsin collectors. The Museum owns seven Avery paintings, which are displayed as part of its Bradley Collection. Collecting of Avery's work in Milwaukee was led by art patron Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley's special interest in the artist combined with the David Barnett Gallery's numerous exhibitions of works from the Avery estate in the 1980s and 90s. Comprised of more than 30 works, Wisconsin Collects Avery includes paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints; and reflects the full range of works produced during the artist's career.

After the presentation in Milwaukee, Milton Avery: The Late Paintings travels to the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, where it is on view from February 16 through April 14, 2002. Milton Avery: The Late Paintings is curated by Dr. Robert Hobbs. The installation at MAM is organized by Russell Bowman, director.

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For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 6/3/11

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