Milton Avery 1885-1965
London’s Royal Academy of Arts is holding the first comprehensive exhibit of Milton’s Avery’s work in Europe.
Milton Avery was an artist’s artist, revered by young artists like Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, whom he mentored. He was a modern American colorist, creating intimate portraits and landscapes that were neither Impressionistic nor Abstract Expressionist, the trends in America at the apex of his career.
Born in 1885 in Altmar, New York, Avery began factory work at age 16 to help support his mother, sisters and nieces. He took art classes at night and then worked nights so that he could devote himself to his art during the day.
Avery was 41 when he met and married illustrator, Sally Michel, who supported them while Avery studied at the Art Students League in New York. The couple painted together in their New York apartment, entertained friends and fellow artists and remained together for nearly forty years, until Avery’s death, at age 79, in 1965.
His career was advanced by financier Roy Rothschild Neuberger, who bought 100 of Avery’s works, which he loaned or donated to museums around the world.
It was still difficult for Avery to support his family, but his works and life were both beautiful, bold and serene. Summer vacation spots, his wife and their daughter, March, were subjects of his paintings.
In 2018, Avery’s Red Nude, done in 1954, was auctioned for more than $3 million at Christie’s; twice the estimate.
His works are in the permanent collections of such major museums as the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn, MoMA, the Met and the Phillips Collection.
In addition to the Milton Avery exhibit in London, which is scheduled to run from July 16 through16 October 2022, the Royal Academy has collaborated with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut to present concurrent exhibits of Avery’s works.
Elizabeth Catlett 1915 – 2012
Elizabeth Catlett’s Seated Woman sculpture set a record for the artist in 2019, when it sold at Swann Galleries’ African-American Fine Art sale for $389,000.
Elizabeth Catlett was determined to pursue a career as an artist, although the social norms of the times made it difficult. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Catlett was accepted to Carnegie Mellon University, but was refused admission when the school found out that she was black. Instead, Catlett attended Howard University, where she graduated cum laude.
She became interested in the work of Grant Wood, and studied for her Masters Degree at Iowa State, where he taught. She was not permitted to live at the dorms at Iowa State because she was black and had to live off campus. Despite the discrimination, in 1940 Catlett became one of the first students to receive an MFA from the school and the first African-American woman to receive the degree.
Catlett received a Fellowship to study in Mexico, where she worked at the Taller de Gráfica Popular, a workshop dedicated to prints promoting leftist social causes and education. It was there that she met and married artist Francisco Mora, with whom she had three children.
Elizabeth Catlett died in 2012, at age 96. She was survived by her three sons, ten grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Her works are currently on exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Delaware Art Museum and other venues around the country.
Her works are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, MoMA, the Met, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington D.C. and many other major museums and galleries.
Eric Vilas-Boas. Works by Elizabeth Catlett and Yoshitomo Nara Set Auction Records for the Artists. Hyperallergic. October 10, 2019.
Peter Plagens. ‘Milton Avery: The Connecticut Years’ Review: Prelude to SuccessThe Wall Street Journal. June 12, 2021.
David Taylor. Milton Avery Works from Peter O’Toole Collection on View in Southampton. Dan’s Insider Hamptons Newsletter.July 30, 2021.