Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York;
Joan Borgenicht Aron, niece of the above, Washington, D.C., purchased from the above, 1959.
Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York, "Milton Avery '53-'54," March 29-April 17, 1954;
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, "24th Annual Exhibitions of Contemporary Art," 1955;
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, at the Texas National Bank, 3rd-Floor Gallery, Houston, Texas, "Milton Avery," June 12-July 6, 1956;
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1956;
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and elsewhere, "Milton Avery," February 3-March 13, 1960;
Fischbach Gallery, New York, "Milton Avery: Selected Works," February 16-March 17, 2012.
Grace Borgenicht Gallery, Milton Avery '53-'54, exhibition brochure, New York, March 29-April 17, 1954, no. 3;
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, at the Texas National Bank, 3rd-Floor Gallery, Milton Avery, exhibition brochure, Houston, Texas, June 12-Juy 6, 1956, no. 4.
"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. From the beginning there was nothing tentative about Avery. He always had that naturalness, that exactness and that inevitable completeness which can be achieved only by those gifted with magical means, by those born to sing...."
Painted in 1954, From the Studio was executed during a time of transition in Milton Avery's career. Indeed, Avery's work from the 1950s and after has the distinctive character of simplified forms and blocks of color that we have come to associate with the artist's most notable works. In addition to their broad popular appeal, Avery's bold abstractions exerted a highly important influence on Post-War American painting and have been seen as critical forerunners to the works of Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottleib, among others.
Many scholars attribute the important characteristics of Avery's style to his professional affiliation with the gallery of Paul Rosenberg who exposed him to modern European artists and their abstract ideals. When Rosenberg arrived in America in 1940, he brought a cache of great works by important European artists, many of whom provided Avery with a new understanding of abstract representation. Barbara Haskell discusses these influences, noting that "Rosenberg's proclivity for taut structure and architectonic solidity encouraged Avery to emphasize these aspects of his work. He replaced the brushy paint application and graphic detailing that had informed his previous efforts with denser more evenly modulated areas of flattened color contained with crisply delineated forms. The result was a more abstract interlocking of shapes and a shallower pictorial space than he had previously employed. Avery retained color as the primary vehicle of feeling and expression, but achieved a greater degree of abstraction by increasing the parity between recognizable forms and abstract shapes." ("Milton Avery: The Metaphysics of Color," Milton Avery: Paintings from the Collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York, 1994, pp. 8-9)
As typical of Avery's style, in From the Studio, the artist creates tension and balance through his selection of complimentary and contrasting colors and shapes. While he simplifies the scene to the broadest possible forms, he invigorates these shapes through his sophisticated use of variegated hues. Avery sets his highly saturated palette of outdoorsy greenish-blue, yellow and peach against the stark black and orange-red of his interior studio. Here, Avery uses blocks of color both as expression and as a way to modulate space as he suggests recession through the planes of color and their arrangement on the two-dimensional surface. In 1952, Avery discussed his use of color, "I do not use linear perspective, but achieve depth by color-the function of one color with another. I strip the design to the essentials; the facts do not interest me as much as the essence of nature." (as quoted in R. Hobbs, Milton Avery: The Late Paintings, New York, 2001, p. 51) The shapes of color in the painting are balanced by the hard lines of the doorway and foreground juxtaposed with the curving lines of the artist's wife Sally seated in the garden. The artist has also used his technique of scratching the surface of the paint for texture, pairing the smooth boldness of the blacks and reds against the tree leaves and branches that are seen from the studio doorway.
Though Avery discounted the influence of Henri Matisse on his work, it seems undeniable that he was inspired by the French artist's use of broad, interlocking shapes to create depth and his preference for flat color over blended shades. Matisse described an approach to painting which could equally serve to define Avery's own technique: "Fit your parts into one another and build up your figures as a carpenter does a house. Everything must be constructed--built up of parts that make a unit..." Matisse further states, "The mechanics of construction is the establishment of the oppositions which create the equilibrium of the directions." (as quoted in Milton Avery: The Late Paintings, pp. 50, 53) In From the Studio, it seems Avery has assembled his composition according to this method.
Deemed an immediate success, From the Studio was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art's Annual Exhibition in 1955, just one year after it was painted. Later, the painting was also included in the prominent Avery retrospective that the Whitney Museum of American Art organized in 1960. Indeed, From the Studio includes all of the hallmarks that are distinctive of the artist's works from his later and arguably most sophisticated period. In its investigation of color, geometry and space, the work is in many ways a summation of Avery's remarkable accomplishments. "I like to seize the one sharp instant in Nature," wrote Avery, "to imprison it by means of ordered shapes and space relationships. To this end I eliminate and simplify, leaving apparently nothing but color and pattern. I am not seeking pure abstraction; rather, the purity and essence of the Idea--expressed in its simplest form." (as quoted in Milton Avery: The Late Paintings, p. 53)
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