Lot 506

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AMERICAN, 1855-1965
NUDE, ca. 1936
Oil on canvas laid on board
Lower right signed: Milton Avery; verso gallery label: Harbor Gallery, Cold Spring Harbor, L.I., New York; verso on frame remnants of the Harbor Gallery label.

This lot is accompanied by a letter of opinion from the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation

Catalogue note:
Raised in a working-class family in upstate New York, Milton Avery took classes at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford, developing his craft while working a series of blue collar jobs. In 1925, Avery moved to New York City to be closer to his future wife, young artist Sally Michel. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, Milton Avery befriended abstract expressionists Mark Rothko and Alfred Gottleib, and began using thinner paint to create flat planes of color and semi-abstract forms. Avery's first solo exhibition was held at the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., in 1944. After a period of career stagnation, Avery achieved national recognition in 1957 when the critic Clement Greenberg published a feature on Avery's work in Arts Magazine. Greenberg wrote of Avery: "The latest generation of abstract painters from New York has certain salutary lessons to learn from him that they cannot learn from any other artist on the scene." The attention from the article resulted in the Whitney Museum of American Art hosting a major retrospective of Avery's work in 1960. Two years later, Avery passed away from a heart attack. His friend, Mark Rothko, spoke at his funeral, saying: "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." Since his death, Avery's work has become the subject of countless exhibitions at major institutions, and his paintings are in dozens of museum collections.

This painting was completed around 1936, during a period when Milton and Sally, restricted from attending art classes due to the birth of their daughter, would invite a small group of fellow artists to the Avery home for a weekly sketching class. In a 1982 interview with Tom Wolf for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Sally Michel Avery described how the group, which sometimes included Rothko, Gottleib, Byron Browne and John D. Graham, would split the cost of hiring a nude model. "Sometimes we'd get a male nude but we actually liked the female nude better," Sally Avery stated, adding "it's more fun to draw a woman." According to Gottlieb, many of Milton Avery's nude paintings from this period originated from these sketching sessions. Speaking to Frederick S. Wight in 1952, Gottlieb stated: "Avery was a wonderful draughtsman. His figures were more literal than they would appear later in the painting which developed out of the sketches. It was realism of a sort, with distortion accentuating what was characteristic in the model or giving play to the humor that was characteristic of Avery. Heads grew small; figures were elongated, thighs swelled."


  • Harbor Gallery, Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island; purchased from this gallery in the 70s and by descent to the present owner.
  • Dimensions:
  • 16 x 12 in. (40.6 x 30.5 cm.), Frame: 23 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (59.7 x 49.5 cm.)
  • Artist Name:
  • Medium:
  • Oil on canvas laid on board
  • Condition:
  • This work is in good condition. There is no visible inpaint under uv black light. There is surface dirt in the upper left corner that is visible under uv black light and the naked eye.

    For a detailed condition report please request more information.

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September 28, 2023 10:00 AM EDT
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Potomack Company

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