DescriptionMilton Avery (American, 1885-1965)
Green Meadow, 1957
oil on canvas
16 x 44 inches (40.6 x 111.8 cm)
Signed lower right: Milton Avery
Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: GREEN MEADOW by MIlton Avery, 1957, 16 x 44"
PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED NEW YORK COLLECTOR
Esther Stuttman Gallery, New York, 1958;
Vered Art, East Hampton, New York;
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1993.
Painted in 1957, Green Meadow was executed during a time of transition in Milton Avery's career. Indeed, Avery's work from the 1950s and later 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 Gottlieb, 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).
In Green Meadow, as typical of Avery's style, 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 verdant green against the stark black and grey of an expansive mountain range and blush-colored sky in the distance. 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).
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 Green Meadow, Avery has certainly assembled his composition according to this method.
Green Meadow 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).
The painting is executed in oil on a medium wove canvas, which has been lined to a mylar secondary support with a waxy substance, presumably Beva 361. The canvas has been stretched on to a 6 member modern and keyable stretcher. The lining and the surface paint layers are stable. Under UV examination, there is some visible inpainting scattered along what appear to be previous areas of drying crackle, or paint shrinkage, which looks to have been applied at the time of the lining. There appears to be a light layer of matte varnish on the surface, exhibiting no sheen. The painting is in overall excellent and stable condition.
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