MILTON AVERY (1885-1965)
MILTON AVERY (1885-1965)
MILTON AVERY (1885-1965)
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MILTON AVERY (1885-1965)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… 显示更多 Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
MILTON AVERY (1885-1965)

Dancing Trees

52 x 66 in. (132.1 x 167.6 cm.)
Milton Avery Trust, New York.
Private collection, England.
Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London.
Wendell Cherry, Louisville, Kentucky.
Private collection, Columbus, Ohio.
Acquired by the late owner, 1998.
H. Kramer, Milton Avery: Paintings 1930-1960, New York, 1971, p. 26, (illustrated, pl. 8).
Newport Beach, Newport Harbor Art Museum and Irvine, University of California, Art Gallery, Milton Avery: Late Paintings (1958-1963), February-March 1971, p. 25, no. 14 (illustrated).
New York, The Pace Gallery, Group Show of Gallery Artists, June-August 1983.
Portland Art Museum; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; New Orleans Museum of Art and Seattle Art Museum, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, October 2015-May 2017, pp. 136-37, no. 34 (illustrated in color, p. 137).
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas


Painted in 1960, Dancing Trees demonstrates Milton Avery’s distinctive approach to the dichotomy between representation and abstraction. This tactic crowned him not only as one of America’s greatest modernists but also inspired the world’s foremost post-war artists across the genres of Abstract Expressionism, Color Field and representational painting. Described as America’s greatest colorist, or simply put, the “American Fauve,” Avery continually simplified, reduced and pared down his still lifes, landscapes and portraits throughout his career. As exemplified by his powerfully immersive Dancing Trees, Avery bordered on total abstraction in his later period, but never fully departing from his iconic vision of the natural world.
Known for his modernist depictions of the everyday people, places and objects of his immediate surroundings, Avery fueled his artistic imagination with annual summer trips to destinations such as Woodstock, Gloucester, Vermont and importantly, Provincetown. The summer of 1957 marked a turning point for the artist, in which his canvases began to shake off the remnants of representation in favor of increasingly abstracted forms, where his consummate blend of complementary and contradictory colors is allowed to shine to their utmost. Avery had originally met fellow artists Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko at the end of the 1920s, both finding a natural kinship in the older Avery, who became their mentor and friend. During the summer of 1957, the three converged in Provincetown for what would be the last time. Having met as younger, unestablished artists, that summer found them all to be equally successful working artists, and each would have their own museum retrospectives in the coming years—Gottlieb at the Jewish Museum in the fall of 1957, Rothko at the Phillips Collection in 1960 and Avery at the Whitney Museum of American Art also in 1960. In reconstructing those crucial few months, the impact each artist asserted on the other is profound: “Provincetown in 1957...encouraged a congenial social atmosphere in which to pursue what is essentially a solitary task. Not only did Milton begin to paint larger that summer, he began to paint in oils, which was quite unusual for him during summer months” (P. Cavenaugh, “The Provincetown Summers,” in Coming to Light: Avery, Gottlieb, image.png Rothko, exh. cat., Knoedler & Company, New York, 2002, p. 14).
Avery spent four successive summers in Provincetown between 1957-1960, and indeed, the scale of his work drastically increased as he began painting directly onto canvas rather than make preparatory sketches that were later finished in the studio. Nathan Halper, owner of the Provincetown art gallery HCE Gallery, remembered Avery as saying he wanted to paint larger works “like the abstract boys” (N. Halper, quoted in op. cit., 2001, p. 100). Painted during these important and transformative years, Dancing Trees exemplifies the impressive scale and reductive painting method of his later works, with the same strong focus on color harmony and grounding in nature as celebrated throughout his career. According to art historian Robert Hobbs, Avery’s late landscapes such as Dancing Trees act as “a subtle reminder that the real world has its own magic and sense of wonder if one approaches it directly, sensitively, and as unselfconsciously as a child” (R. Hobbs, Milton Avery, New York, 1990, p. 214). In the present work, large color-blocked bands of soft robin’s egg blue and rich aquamarine emphasize the flatness of the picture plane, while energetic strokes of royal blues and brown lend a dynamism to the composition. Avery used similar brushwork in some of his most impressive and large-scale works, such as Dunes and Sea II (1960, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York).
Avery was an artist who constantly influenced and evolved through the decades. Dancing Trees embodies the culmination of his prolific artistic journey and his powerful legacy. In the opening lines of his eulogy, Rothko astutely and directly said of Avery, “I would like to say a few words about the greatness of Milton Avery. This conviction of greatness, the feeling that one was in the presence of great events, was immediate on encountering his work. It was true for many of us who were younger, questioning and looking for an anchor. This conviction has never faltered. It has persisted, and has been reinforced through the passing decades and the passing fashions” (M. Rothko, quoted in 1965, reprinted in R. Hobbs, op. cit., 2001, p. 9).

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