Milton Avery (1885 – 1965) has long been recognised in the United States as one of the most important and influential twentieth-century American artists. Avery’s compositions, taken from daily life and which include portraits and landscapes have a major influence on artistic generations.
Avery played a vital role in the development of Abstract Expressionism through his close association with some of the younger exponents of the movement, such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Adolph Gottlieb. His work defies easy categorisation; ranging between American Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism, although he was not formally associated with either movement.
Milton Avery: American Colourist at the Royal Academy will cover the full development of Avery’s career. He was famously prolific, and this survey will feature a careful selection of 70 works, including many of his celebrated paintings from 1910 to the 1960s. The last retrospective of his work was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1982 and this will be the first ever solo exhibition of Milton Avery in Europe.
The first section, Early Work, will feature work from 1910 up until the late 1930s, covering his main themes; the landscape, the city and the domestic. A number of these works have never been publicly exhibited before. The influence of the American Impressionists and Avery’s early appreciation of the landscape will be revealed. Paintings will include Blossoming, 1918 through to Fishing Village, 1939.
In the second section, Portraits, there will be paintings of his family, friends and self-portraits. Featured here will be a portrait of his friends in The Dessert, 1939 and Self-Portrait, 1941. From the early 1940s he ceased formal portraiture but retained the figure in his work.
A section entitled Innovation in Colour and Form will chart the period of innovation from the mid-1940s when Avery developed a system of flattening the compositional forms of his paintings into abstracted tonal planes. It was this development which established him as a major American colourist. Key works in this section will include two portraits of his daughter March, Seated Girl with Dog, 1944, and March in Brown, 1954, as well as Husband and Wife, 1945.
And finally in Late Work, paintings from the 1950s to the early 1960s will reveal a continuing influence of European Modernism, particularly Henri Matisse, as Avery increasingly employed non-associative colours in his compositions. There is a strong focus on the landscape and a further paring down of the detail of the subject. These works will show the extent to which Avery perfected his unique ability to balance colour and form in increasingly abstracted compositions, as seen in Black Sea, 1959, and Boathouse by the Sea, 1959.
For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here
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