Milton Avery chose to create works in his own unique style and ignored the trends that swept the art world during his long career.
He is now getting the acclaim that he deserves, with art critics admitting that they did not give him the appreciation and acclaim that he deserved…until now.
Milton Avery 1885-1965
Milton Avery had his first major museum show in 1943. He was 58 years old. Gallery shows followed, and for the next couple of years he sold many of his works. But by the late 1940s, abstract expressionism had taken hold and he was brushed aside by dealers and critics.
Ironically, it was Mark Rothko, who idolized Avery, and became one of the most famous abstract painters in America.
Rothko lived across the hall from Avery, his wife, Sally Michel and their daughter, March. He visited the Avery family almost every night and learned a lot about art and life.
Rothko delivered a tribute at Avery’s funeral, saying, “The instruction, the example, the nearness in the flesh of this marvelous man – all this was a significant fact – one which I never forget. Avery is first a great poet. His is the poetry of sheer loveliness, of sheer beauty. Thanks to him this kind of poetry has been able to survive in our time. This alone took great courage in a generation which felt that it could be heard only through clamor, force and a show of power. But Avery had that inner power in which gentleness and silence proved more audible and poignant.”
In 2022, a major retrospective of Avery’s work traveled from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, then to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. It was the first comprehensive exhibit of Avery’s work in Europe.
Avery’s early life was one of struggle and hard work. He left school at 16 and was the sole support of his mother and sisters after the death of his father. He worked factory jobs and studied art at night. He married Sally Michel when he was forty. She worked as an illustrator to support the family and to allow Avery to paint full time.
Their small apartment became a gathering place for young artists, like Rothko. Avery did sketches of Rothko and of everyone who visited.
In the last few years, Avery’s works have achieved critical acclaim and can be found in major museums around the world.
Avery’s greatest legacy may be his daughter, March Avery Cavanaugh and his grandson, Sean Cavanaugh, who are both artists.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Milton Avery available at Surovek Gallery.
Lucy Davies. Rothko’s Guru: How Milton Avery Transformed Modern Art. The Telegraph. July 3, 2022.
Roberta Smith. A Singular American Painter and His Perennially Disregarded Wife. The New York Times. May 12, 2022.
Laura Cumming. Milton Avery: American Colourist review – pure, exhilarating uplift. The Guardian. July 17, 2022.
Susan Stamberg. Artist Milton Avery created many amazing works before his death in 1965. NPR/Interview. January 17, 2022.