Published: January 1, 2002
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. – “Milton Avery: ,” the first in-depth examination of the last years of the artist’s long and celebrated career, will bring together some 50 major works from public and private collections in the United States and Europe at the Norton Museum of Art.
One of America’s finest and favorite modern painters, Avery (1885-1965) pushed representation to the border of abstraction with his witty, spare and graceful style. The exhibit opens on February 16 and remains through April 14 at 1451 South Olive Avenue.
Until now, Avery’s career has been viewed as a monolithic whole rather than a series of successive and distinct periods that culminated in the paintings he produced during the last two decades of his life. In this crucial final phase, Avery’s experiments of the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s coalesced into the increasingly expansive canvases of the 1950s and 1960s, paintings characterized by bold color and nearly abstract patterns of simplified form.
While Avery’s style may have changed and the scale of his work may have grown, his art remained rooted in the same familiar, domestic and comfortable subject matter that had been his hallmark for decades.
The earliest works date from 1947, the year of Avery’s first retrospective, which he affectionately titled “My Daughter, March.” In that show at the Durand-Ruel Galleries, Avery charted his artistic development alongside the maturation of his only child, whose likeness he had recorded in many of his most appealing canvases. Avery’s devotion to his family and capacity for self-examination is evident in one of the first works in “,” his 1947 self-portrait. Surrounded in his studio by paintings of his daughter, Avery stands before a mirror, paintbrush in hand, taking stock of his life and his accomplishments. This deceptively daring self-portrait initiates Avery’s remarkable last period, when he personalized and trumped tradition by transposing into a modernist key a number of artistic genres, including nudes, still lifes, domestic interiors and seascapes.
In each of these genres Avery tackled tradition with a dry laconic wit, making each painting appear effortless; more like an act of good fortune than an act of artistic defiance.
Avery’s late paintings, seemingly light-hearted meditations on life’s many pleasures, are in fact powerful expressions of the importance of family, the beauty of the natural world and the fundamental truths that only great art can describe. Avery’s ability to crystallize experience and to capture life’s evanescence and contingency is revealed in the 50 canvases from 1947 to 1963 that make up “.”
Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. For information, 561-832-5196.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm