Milton Avery's Vermont

Milton Avery’s Vermont

Special Exhibition

July 2 through November 6

Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vermont

My knowledge of Milton Avery was limited to art history classes and occasional mentions of his simplified landscapes, which I greatly admired but often confused with Arthur Dove.


Mountain and Meadow – 1960, 60″ x 68” National Gallery of Art, Gift of Sally M. Avery

A  much-publicized review brought attention to the local news media – “The Bennington Museum’s Milton Avery’s Vermont, which is as close to perfection  as mere mortals can mount, small in scale, with beautiful objects, expertly interpreted, and with many surprises. Every art lover needs to learn more about this work and the museum itself. ’’
The Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2016

Finding an exhibition by an artist you admire and then learning that he summered in your corner of southwestern Vermont was a special treat. This was the case as I ventured to the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont to view the Milton Avery exhibit this past summer.                                      

Vermont Spring – 1945, 28″ x 40” Private Collection

Walking through the show I was taken by the size of the watercolors.  Most were 22” x 30″, not something that would have been easily executed outdoors. The exhibition catalog explains Avery’s use of small pencil sketches on the spot, to later be used as take-off places for large watercolor, gouache, and oil works in his New York studio. The small sketches and corresponding paintings are beautiful. They often appear as quick  5” x 7” scribbles. What interested me most was the uninhibited freedom in his treatment of the usual, family, ordinary everyday picnics, and natural settings of cows on a hillside.

Sketcher's on the Rocks, 36" x 42", oil on canvas, 1943

Sketcher’s on the Rocks – 1943, oil on canvas,    36″ x 42″

A more intimate look at the artist’s life revealed his wife was also an artist and her more illustrious work sustained the family for many years. These were not works that I had seen previously, certainly not in art history books, but they provided a memorable progression in style and thought by well-known artists. The period 1935 through 1943 when the Averys summered in Vermont is considered the “fertile decade” that led to his best-known works.                                     

Untitled – 1937 watercolor  22” x 30”

Untitled – 1937, watercolor.  22” x 30”

The above untitled watercolor is one of several that is doubled-sided and framed here to show both sides.
It is easy to see that this great American Modernist is a major influence for many painters  today.

Milton Avery (1885-1965)

Blue Trees, Oil on canvas, 28” x 36”, 1945 Oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches Collection Aubergine Museum of Art Purchase College, State University of New York Gift of Roy Aubergine © 2015 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York