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Celebrating Summer Art with the Averys

After long, grey New England winters, many artists on the East Coast burst with inspiration as color once again washed over the coastal landscape. This was true for the Averys, a family of artists anchored in New York City. They traveled often, including to nearby Connecticut, to rest, relax and get inspired. A compilation and celebration of this colorful family’s art is currently the signature exhibition of the season, entitled Summer with the Averys [Milton | Sally | March], at the famed Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT.

On view through September 1, 2019, the exhibition fittingly features a multitude of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints depicting seascapes and beach scenes, as well as figural compositions, landscapes, and rarely seen travel sketchbooks produced by the creative Avery family, portraying the grandeur of natural phenomena and the sociability of family, friends and acquaintances.

Along with well recognized paintings by Milton Avery, the show offers a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the equally remarkable art created by Avery’s wife Sally and their daughter March.

“One is struck in this show by how summer for the Averys was a working vacation in the happiest, most gratifying sense,” says Peter C. Sutton, The Susan E. Lynch Executive Director of the Bruce Museum. “They were remarkably dedicated and productive, be it in recording the craggy shore of Gloucester, the verdant mountains of New England, or the exotic allure of Mexico. One imagines the satisfaction of finally setting out from the confines of their winter studio to the call of the ocean and the open road. And yet, the pleasure of wanderlust never deterred them from keeping abreast of the most current changes in the contemporary art world—lives well lived and images for the ages.”

Milton Avery, the son of a tanner, came from a modest beginning and worked in a factory as a boy to support his family. Strengthening his ties to the Nutmeg State, Milton attended classes at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford, CT. He met his wife Sally Michel while summer painting in Glouster, MA and the two wed in 1926. Sally, who worked as a commercial illustrator, supported the two so Milton could concentrate on his art. Together, they made many sacrifices for their calling; it was reported they often resorted to dining on just peanut butter and spam. However, the art lived on and the colors danced, which excited the couple and their daughter March more than good food ever could.

Influenced by the greats such as Picasso and Matisse, Milton was called a colorist, by art critic Hilton Kramer, his art focused on color relations and often times Milton would block out whole areas of landscapes and figures with just one color. Although he painted in obscurity for most of his life, he is considered an icon of American painting and his work is sold today for between three to five million dollars, in the rare event it comes up at auction.

Milton passed at age 79 in 1965 and his wife Sally lived until she was 100 and passed away in 2003, their only daughter March is now 86.

Summer with the Averys [Milton | Sally | March] was organized by Kenneth E. Silver a Professor of Art History at New York University and Bruce Museum Adjunct Curator of Art, assisted by Stephanie Guyet, Bruce Museum Zvi Grunberg Fellow, 2018-19. The extraordinary Avery exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, featuring full-color illustrations of all the works in the show and educational programming will include lectures and an audio guide.

The Bruce Museum is a community based, world-class institution highlighting art, science and natural history in more than a dozen changing exhibitions annually. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, and free for members and children less than five years. Individual admission is free on Tuesday.

For additional information, call 203-869-0376 or visit brucemuseum.org.

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