Milton Avery Revisited

Syracuse University Lubin House Gallery, October 14- November 20, 1999
Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, September 17- October 12, 2000

Included in the exhibition were heretofore little known portraits, landscapes and prints from the first half of the artist’s career.  A selection of early still life paintings illustrated his interest in European Post-Impressionism and Modernism.  Later landscapes are more simply designed (almost to the point of abstraction) and displayed a bright palette of colors.  Avery’s portraits allow a rare glimpse into the artist’s circle of friends and family.  One sees immediately the artist’s ability to catch a mannerism, piece of clothing, or physical characteristic that personifies the sitter.  Among these were a number of self-portraits that offer an equally enlightening view of Avery at various points in his career.

Avery has been described as an iconoclast, standing his stylistic ground against the shifting tide of American art in the first half of this century. The abstract painter Adolph Gottlieb said Avery was a “solitary figure working against the stream.”  Avery’s steadfastness resulted in few sales early in his career but endeared him to a younger generation of avant-garde painters including Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Gottlieb.

Louis and Annette Kaufman remained loyal to Avery the person and Avery the artist.  (It was Louis Kaufman who introduced Rothko to Avery.  Rothko and Kaufman had attended school together in Portland, Oregon.)   This steadfast devotion allowed the Kaufmans to develop a collection of the artist’s work that is unlike any other.  We are fortunate to have the opportunity to see the fruit of that special relationship.