Wadsworth Atheneum explores Milton Avery’s Connecticut roots

Milton Avery, Two Cows, 1932. Gouache on colored paper. 12 x 17 inches. The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc. © 2021 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Milton Avery, Two Cows, 1932. Gouache on colored paper. 12 x 17 inches. The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc. © 2021 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

HARTFORD, Conn. – An intimate look at Milton Avery’s longstanding connections to Connecticut, Milton Avery: The Connecticut Years focuses on the artist’s earliest works from the 1910s and 1920s, revealing their significance to his artistic development. The exhibit opens at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on May 14 and continues through October 17. Two dozen sketches, watercolors, and oils illustrate his early interest in depicting landscapes, demonstrating how Avery’s time in Connecticut sparked his passion for exploring a sense of place through his work, a trait that remained a constant throughout his career.

“This exhibition explores Avery’s formative years, before he was celebrated as a purveyor of modernism,” said Erin Monroe, Robert H. Schutz Jr. Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture. “It was here in Hartford where Avery took his first art classes, and at the Wadsworth where he first exhibited publicly.”

Milton Avery, Untitled (Collinsville Landscape Sketch), c. 1930. Pencil on paper. 8.5 x 11 inches. The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc. © 2021 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Milton Avery, Untitled (Collinsville Landscape Sketch), c. 1930. Pencil on paper. 8.5 x 11 inches. The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc. © 2021 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Avery’s artistic training began in downtown Hartford, at the Connecticut Art Students League and the Hartford Art School, and the first public exhibition he participated in took place at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. After moving to New York City in 1925, Avery continued to visit family in Connecticut, even returning to the Wadsworth for exhibition openings. A selection of artwork by Avery’s teachers and colleagues, such as Charles Noel Flagg, founder of the Connecticut League of Art Students, and Albertus Jones, an instructor at the Hartford Art School, contextualize his early training and influences. Archival materials drawn from the Wadsworth’s library and archives, including brochures, reviews, and artist’s letters further develop the art scene in Hartford at the time, home to one of the earliest art schools in the country and activated by numerous art galleries.

Milton Avery, Hartford Woods, 1919. Oil on board. 16 x 20 inches. The Milton Avery Trust. © 2021 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Milton Avery, Hartford Woods, 1919. Oil on board. 16 x 20 inches. The Milton Avery Trust. © 2021 The Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The exhibition features rarely seen works on loan from the Milton Avery Trust, including drawings, watercolors, and early oil sketches. With their loose brushwork, compositions such as Three Trees and Hartford Woods reveal the influence of American Impressionism on Avery’s early work. Other highlights include artworks painted during a summer stay in Collinsville, Conn, in 1930, including Untitled (Collinsville Landscape) and Two Cows. It is in these works that Avery’s interest in color and form, hallmarks of his distinctive style, begin to emerge. Seen together, these objects tell the story of Avery’s artistic roots in Connecticut.

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