‘Milton Avery: A Sense of Place’

Milton Avery, "Solitary Boat," 1960. Courtesy of the Milton Avery Trust and Waqas Wajahat, New York.

Phillips Southampton is currently featuring “Milton Avery: A Sense of Place,” an exhibition running through July 31 with works available for both private sale and at auction. Curated by the artist’s grandson, Sean Cavanaugh, and Waqas Wajahat, the show features works directly from the Milton Avery Trust. Included are some 50 works spanning three decades of the artist’s career focusing on different locations that served as his inspiration. Among the works to be offered in Phillips’ October Sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art in London are three from the collection of the late actor Peter O’Toole.

“Milton Avery is one of the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century, whose relevance continues to the present day,” said Robert Manley, deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art. “His appeal travels far beyond typical geographic constraints, a feat that is now underscored by the upcoming major retrospective of his work organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and curated by Edith Devaney. Among those dedicated to his work was the celebrated actor Peter O’Toole. A household name across the globe for the past five decades, the celebrated actor was a devoted art collector for much of his lifetime and built a remarkable collection, with a particular affinity for Avery’s works. For this exhibition, we are honored to have the opportunity to work with the Milton Avery Trust, the family of Peter O’Toole, Waqas Wajahat, and several other international private collections in bringing these rare-to-market works to the public.”

Despite only visiting Europe once in his lifetime, Avery aligned himself more with European experimentalism than with the American Impressionism and landscape traditions that dominated the academy in the early years of the 20th century. “Milton Avery: A Sense of Place” brings together a unique group of works from across three decades. Ranging from the 1930s to 1960s, the exhibition spans his career from early New York City portraits and interiors up to the landscapes of Provincetown, where he worked alongside Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. Avery’s pivotal breakthrough in balancing color and form was an inspiration to the young emerging Abstract Expressionist artists who befriended him. Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Adolph Gottlieb all cite his influence in their artistic development.

Evoking many of the landscapes he took inspiration from, this exhibition includes works from Upstate New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Gaspe Peninsula in Canada, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Many of Avery’s most significant works revolve around landscapes and seascapes, making Phillips Southampton a natural location for this presentation.

All three Avery works from Peter O’Toole’s collection were acquired from London’s Waddington Galleries by the actor in 1963-1964 and they have remained a treasured part of the family’s collection for five decades. “Bird by Wild Sea,” “White Gull Resting” and “Gulls in Fog” each portray the shoreline, a favorite subject of Avery’s that he would return to again and again throughout his career.