Today, 7 March is Milton Avery’s 132 birthday. Avery was one of the most important homegrown modernist painters in America before modernism was widely accepted. The Avery Estate has just announced the artist’s European representation with London’s Victoria Miro Gallery an enterprise devoted to preserving and promoting the art and achievements of Avery. Victoria Miro will further promote the artist’s legacy through curated exhibitions at its London galleries, new publications, and international presentations.
Victoria Miro will present their first exhibition of Avery’s work in June 2017, the first exhibition of the artist’s work in London for ten years, along with a special presentation at Art Basel 2017. “It is a great honour to be working with the Milton Avery Estate,” remarked Victoria Miro. “Avery is a painter of singular vision and daring ambition, who achieved greatness not through grandeur but through quiet emotion and a profound sense of place. He is a perfect fit within our gallery programme and I am immensely grateful to Waqas Wajahat for championing the work and for this introduction and most importantly to March Avery Cavanaugh and Sean Avery Cavanaugh for entrusting us to further advance Milton Avery’s important legacy.”
“I never have any rules to follow,” he stated in 1952, “I follow myself” – Milton Avery
March Avery Cavanaugh and Sean Avery Cavanaugh of the Milton Avery Estate, comment: “We are delighted that the Milton Avery Estate has found European representation with Victoria Miro. As a gallery with an international presence, a profound commitment to painting and a long history of supporting and promoting artists and artists’ estates, Victoria Miro is the perfect home for Milton Avery’s legacy. During his lifetime and since his death, Milton Avery and the Milton Avery Estate have had relationships with eminent galleries that include Valentine Dudensing, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paul Rosenberg, Grace Borgenicht, André Emmerich and Leslie Waddington. We are excited to add Victoria Miro to that lineage and very much look forward to a close collaboration in organising innovative exhibitions that further Milton Avery’s important legacy throughout the world.”
Born in Altmar, New York, in 1885, Milton Avery moved with his family to Hartford, Connecticut in 1905. After studying at the Connecticut League of Art Students, he worked a succession of night jobs in order to paint during the daytime. Avery moved to New York in 1925 and in 1926 married Sally Michel, whose earnings as an illustrator enabled him to concentrate more fully on painting. His first exhibition in New York was in 1927, though it was not until 1935 that he had his first one-man exhibition, at the Valentine Gallery, New York. In 1944 his first solo museum exhibition opened at the Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, D.C. In 1952 he visited Europe for the first time, travelling to London, Paris and the French Riviera. A retrospective exhibition opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1960; a second retrospective was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1982. In 1962 Milton Avery: Painting 1930-1960 by Hilton Kramer, the first monograph on Avery, was published. Milton Avery died on 3 January 1965 in New York, aged 79.
Avery pursued an independent and steadfast course throughout his career. Always drawing imagery from the world around him, in particular the landscapes and people he loved, his art is as intimate and accessible as it is towering in its ambition and achievement. With his focus on simplified forms and use of colour as a primary means of expression, in the 1930s he profoundly influenced and won the devotion of fellow artists including future abstract expressionists Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman. Rothko in particular admired the “gripping lyricism” of Avery’s work. However, while seeking to express an idea in its simplest form, Avery never sought pure abstraction for himself. Above all, he is an artist who resists categorisation. “I never have any rules to follow,” he stated in 1952, “I follow myself.”
Avery’s work is represented in museums and private collections worldwide, including: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Tate, London; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art, Madrid, Spain; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT.