1885-1965 | American
Signed and dated "Milton Avery 1949" (lower right)
Oil on board
This intimate portrait by American expressionist Milton Avery is a shining example of the artist's ability to convey personal emotion through impassioned use of color. Avery was an important figure in the development of modern art in the early 20th century, utilizing quasi-abstract shapes saturated with flat color to create representational imagery. Often compared to Henri Matisse for his use of bold, unbroken planes of color and simplified forms, Avery's approach enables him to convey the essence of his subject without extraneous details. Sleeping Sally displays the unique qualities that made his work so groundbreaking during his lifetime.
Painted in 1949 during a critical and prolific artistic period for Avery, this oil on board depicts the artist's wife Sally Avery peacefully asleep on a couch. The work exhibits the artist's distinctive trademarks of bold color application and reduced forms that flout representational conventions. The composition is flattened, emphasizing Avery's talent for distilling forms down to their essential components. The fearless juxtaposition of vibrant pinks, reds and blues creates a vibrant, analogous color scheme that achieves both chromatic complexity and harmony across the canvas. Overall, the work deftly bridges the gap between representation and abstraction, highlighting the relationship between line, form, color and emotion independent of its subject matter.
Avery was born in Sand Bank, New York before moving to Connecticut with his family in 1898 where he held various jobs as an assembler, latheman and mechanic before enrolling in drawing classes at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford. He later transferred to the School of Art at the Society of Hartford and became a member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. He eventually moved to New York in 1925 after meeting and marrying his wife Sally, where he was finally able to devote himself to painting full-time. Although he exhibited extensively in the 1930s, he did not enter the mature phase of his career until joining the Paul Rosenberg Gallery in 1943 and his first solo exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC in 1944, beginning a trajectory of critical acclaim for the artist.
Avery's powerful imagery and unapologetic approach to representation are his artistic signature, making his work completely unique and immediately recognizable. Art critic Hilton Kramer stated of Avery, "He was, without question, our greatest colorist... Among his European contemporaries, only Matisse — to whose art he owed much, of course — produced a greater achievement in this respect." His remarkable sense of color would inspire some of America's greatest colorists, including Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, who both acknowledged the profound influence of Avery on their own work. Today, his works belong to the permanent collections of dozens of prestigious museums, include the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).
Board: 14" high x 17" wide
Frame: 21" high x 24" wide
Milton Avery: A Retrospective, David Barnett Gallery, 1984-1985, no. 21