Philbrook Museum of Art
Front of Museum, photo by John Hazeltine
Museum Gardens, photo by John Hazeltine
Milton Avery Paintings at the Philbrook
Country Brook, 1938, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Neuberger Museum of Art
Internationally recognized American artist Milton Avery is featured in the exhibition Milton Avery Paintings from the Collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art opening at The Philbrook Museum of Art July 11 through August 29, I999. On view are 30 paintings, spanning the years 1929-1961, by the renowned American colorist. Both figurative and landscape paintings are presented in this exhibition documenting Avery's artistic development, as well as the impressive permanent collection of the Neuberger Museum.
Milton Avcry brought together simple, spare forms and harmonious colors to build patterns of flat, interlocking shapes reminiscent of French artist Henri Matisse. He frequently depicted family, friends and the familiar landscape, simplifying and refining the imagery into strong formal patterns. Avery's stature as an artist is internationally recognized, as has his influence on a generation of other notable American painters including Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman. (left: Cello Player in Blue, 1944, oil on canvas, 36 x 26 inches; right: Child with Doll, 1944, oil on canvas, 46 x 37 7/8 inches)
The originality of Avery's achievements is all the more impressive given the aesthetic climate in which he developed. Avery came of age as an artist in the 1920s, when the country's experiments with non-objective form and color was largely abandoned in favor of a more representational style. Following the onset of the Great Depression, the country's aesthetic conservatism became pronounced as artists felt more and more obliged to address devastating social conditions. By 1929, Avery had established himself as an artist committed to the formal values of painting, In an art world dominated by social and political art, he seemed a solitary figure.
Although color as a vehicle of emotional and spatial effects was an accepted strategy in Europe, it had yet to find a secure foothold in America. Avery's exploration served as a beacon for other artists who struggled to forge an aesthetic path apart from social realism. For them, Avery's willingness to exploit colors in the service of emotional expression reflected courage and a singular purpose. Nonetheless, Avery never abandoned his loyalty to observed reality. His art remained a celebration of the world around him and retained the principle using every day imagery while pushing the boundaries of representation and affirming the realist's mission. (right: Still Life with Derby, 1944, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches)
By the 1950s, Milton Avery began to receive wide critical acclaim. But just as his work finally became acknowledged, his physical condition deteriorated. In 1962 he suffered his second heart attack and was left too frail to work until his death in 1965.
Roy R. Neuberger, one of this country's most respected collectors and patrons of American art, first encountered the work of Avery in 1940· Neuberger was attracted to Avery's nuances of color as well as the formal qualities of his work. He was drawn to the distinctly American sensibility of the artist, his humor and wit. Convinced of his significance, Neuberger acquired more than one hundred Avery paintings within a short period of time, making his the largest personal collection of the artist's work.
Philbrook's own Avery painting, Child with Doll, was a gift of Neuberger to Philbrook Museum in 1953. In 1974, the gift of a considerable portion of Neubergcr's collection created the Neuberger Museum of Art of the State University of New York at Purchase.
The exhibition is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art in celebration of their 20th anniversary. A full color catalogue will accompany the exhibition with an essay by Avery scholar and curator at the Whimey Museum of American Art, Barbara Haskell.
See also our article on the Museum of Art in Santa Fe's exhibition Milton Avery: Paintings from the Collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art
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