Milton Avery’s Later Work

UCLA Hammer Museum


oil on canvas
55 x 36 inches
Milton Avery Trust

Milton Avery has a system, which is why he faces you as Velazquez with one hand in his pocket.


It’s a complex structural means, founded on color. The superficial systems generated by this are questionable, at times, but always pan out. The anecdotal measure is pulled out of his hat as Picasso or Matisse: a formal trick, or a color one. But it really works, in the most directly visual sense.

Red Rock Falls
oil on canvas
33⅞ x 43⅞ inches
Milwaukee Art Museum

Where it goes is a flicker of color or a nuance in one corner, or a badge or flecking or spurt, that catches the eye and directs it into the second tier of the system (another squirt or glob elsewhere, of another hue), then another, while planes activate as pure color, exhibit relationships, throw into relief one another, establish the picture.

oil on canvas
24 x 17 inches
private collection

A pink-and-green Paris poster becomes the sea crashing on the rocks in a Toulouse-Lautrec scud of skirts.


His Owl can only be compared with Kokoschka’s Mandrill.

oil on canvas
42 x 48⅛ inches
Brooklyn Museum of Art

The Armand Hammer Museum & Cultural Center was built in 1990 to house Armand Hammer’s collection, including the Hammer Codex of Leonardo. Four years later, Bill Gates owned the Codex, and the Museum was absorbed by UCLA (it is now scheduled to be rebuilt). Under the circumstances, the Museum’s persistent quotation from the catalog is significant, false as the analogy can be: “In the context of American culture at that time, Avery’s paintings seemed comforting because they echoed dreams of a secure homeland.”