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Gray Nude

Gray Nude, 1953, Woodcut
Milton Avery (American, 1885 – 1965)

Milton Avery was an American painter and artist. Avery took classes with the Connecticut League of Art Students and the School of the Art Society of Hartford before moving to New York with his wife in 1925.  In New York Avery was active in the art scene, often having artists like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman visit his apartment. Though trained more as an academic painter, involvements with New York galleries that frequently exhibited modernist European art led Avery to develop a style that gradually embraced modern styles.

In this woodcut, it is again possible to see the influence of Modernists like Matisse on Avery’s work.  For example, take the sofa that the figure lounges on: Avery uses the same tone of black throughout the pattern, giving the viewer the impression of flattened, purely ornamental space, a technique Matisse used in his work to make spaces appear to be comprised of flat patterns.  Moreover, the distinction between the human form and the background begins to be blurred, not only because everything is rendered in the same color, but also because Avery does not outline the body here, except for the head, so the figure appears to merge with their surroundings.  Moreover, the techniques Avery has used to create this work—a monochromatic palette, simplified forms, and flattened space—help to create a unified composition in the work. Thus, the viewer will find harmony in the piece as a whole.