Milton Avery Biography

Milton Avery
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Quick Facts

Birthday: March 7, 1885

Died At Age: 79

Sun Sign: Pisces

Born in: Altmar, New York

Famous as: Painter

Artists American Men


Spouse/Ex-: Sally Michel

Died on: January 3, 1965

U.S. State: New Yorkers

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Who was Milton Avery?

Milton Avery was one of the most distinguished American modern painters of the 20th century. Primarily a colorist, Avery’s work mainly focused on color relations and was not concerned with creating the illusion of depth similar to those of conventional Western paintings. Avery was often thought of as an American Matisse, especially due to his colorful and innovative landscape paintings. His poetic, bold and creative use of drawing and color set him apart from more conventional painting of his era. Early in his career, his work was considered too radical for being too abstract; when ‘Abstract Expressionism’ became dominant, his work was ignored for being too representational. Although he was never associated with any particular movement, Avery was a key modernist who influenced succeeding generations of artists including Color Field painters like Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb. As a magnificent painter, graphic artist and ceramist, Milton Avery received numerous awards from American art institutions during his lifetime, but became really famous posthumously. Now he is acclaimed as one of the most influential US 20th-century artists.

Milton Avery’s Childhood And Early Life
Milton Avery was born on 7 March in the year 1885 in Altmar, New York. His father was a tanner. Avery started working at a local factory at an early age of 16 and supported himself with succession blue-collar jobs. In 1915, after the death of his brother-in-law, he became the only adult male member of the family and was responsible for nine female relatives. He attended art classes at Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford and over a period, he painted in obscurity while receiving a conservative art education. In the year 1917, he began doing night jobs so that he could paint in the daytime. Avery worked in manufacturing and with an insurance company until 1924.
Personal Life
In the year 1924, he met Sally Michel, a student at the Art students League in New York and moved to New York City to be closer to her. In 1926, they got married. In this time, Avery changed his date of birth to 1893, perhaps to reduce his age difference with Sally. Sally’s income as an illustrator gave him the chance to devote himself completely to painting. Their daughter March Avery was also a painter. Avery was a man of few words. "Why talk when you can paint?" he often quipped to his wife.
Milton Avery moved to New York in 1924. For several years in the late 1920s and through the late 1930s, Avery practiced painting and drawing at the Art Students League of New York. Roy Neuberger saw his work and with an intention of getting the world to know Avery, Neuberger bought over 100 of his paintings and lent them to museums across the globe. This brought the budding artist great fame. Avery had his first solo art exhibition in the year 1928 at the Opportunity Gallery in New York, which also featured mark Rothko and the two became close friends. He befriended many other artists such as Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman and Marsden Hartley. Due to Avery’s innovative and colorful landscape paintings, he was often said to be American Matisse. Although his paintings became increasingly abstract, he never fully abandoned representational subject matter, painting figure groups, still lives, landscapes, and seascapes. By mid-1940s, Avery's work was characterized by a reduction of elements and elimination of detail, filled with an emphasis on arbitrary colors that was discernibly close to Matisse. Early in his career, his work was considered too radical for being too abstract. And when abstract expressionism became dominant, his work was overlooked for being too representational. In the year 1929, a museum called The Philips Collection in Washington D.C. bought his work. It was also the first museum to offer him a chance of solo museum exhibition in 1944. In 1963, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Death And Legacy
Milton Avery died on 3 January 1965 and was buried in the artist cemetery, in Woodstock, Ulster County, New York. After the death of Avery, his widow, Sally Avery, donated his personal papers to the archives of American Art, a research center of the Smithsonian Institute. The papers were scanned in 2007 and were made available to the researchers as the Milton Avery Papers Online. Avery became famous posthumously and is now considered one of the most influential artists in the USA of the 20th century.
Major Works
  • Vermont Hills 1936
  • Gaspe - Pink Sky 1940
  • Self-portrait 1941
  • Autumn 1944
  • Bridge to the Sea 1944
  • Three Cows on Hillside 1945
  • Man and Dog 1950
  • Maternity 1950
  • Sheep 1952
  • Green Sea 1954
  • White Wave 1954
  • Dark Forest 1958
  • Sea Grasses and Blue Sea 1958
  • Black Sea 1959
  • Spring Orchard 1959



Milton Avery was born on the 7of March in Altmar, New York.


Milton met Sally Michel and moved to New York.


Avery and Sally got married.


Avery had his first solo art exhibition at the Opportunity Gallery in New York.


A museum called The Philips Collection in Washington D.C. bought his work.


Milton Avery had his first solo museum exhibition.


He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and sciences.


Avery died on the 3 January.

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