Lot 30
  • 30

Milton Avery 1885 - 1965

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Milton Avery
  • Raymond's Beach
  • signed Milton Avery and dated 1944 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 27 3/4 by 35 3/4 inches
  • (70.5 by 90.8 cm)


Durand-Ruel, New York, 1945
Mrs. George Dart, Locust Valley, New York
Private Collection, Locust Valley, New York, 1963 (acquired from the above)
By descent to the present owner


New York, Durand-Ruel, Paintings by Milton Avery, January-February 1945, no. 6


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Catalogue Note

Milton Avery painted Raymond’s Beach at a critical moment in his career, when he began to privilege color as his primary means of creative expression. Beginning in the 1940s, Avery began to eschew the darker palette and more painterly style of execution characterizing his earlier work to instead embrace a use of vibrant and brilliantly saturated non-associative color. Painted in 1944, Raymond’s Beach fully expresses this mature style. Looking to the work of such European modern masters as Henri Matisse, George Braque and Pablo Picasso, Avery simplified the forms of his compositions and his manner of execution in this period, reinterpreting traditionally representational scenes as two-dimensional designs of form, tone and texture. Raymond’s Beach not only manifests the artist’s thoroughly modern approach to traditional subject matter, but also demonstrates how, by depicting only the forms and figures of the world around him, Avery translated European modes of expression with a resolutely American idiom.

The sea held a particular place of importance for Avery from the earliest years of his career. Maintaining a lifelong commitment to representational imagery, Avery continually gleaned subject matter from his immediate environment. His preferred motifs included his beloved wife, Sally, and daughter, March, as well as the rocky shorelines of Massachusetts. In Raymond’s Beach he likely depicts both, here capturing Sally sketching by the sea. Avery painted Raymond’s Beach in Gloucester, a place he first visited in 1920 and often returned to during the summer months through 1945. Images of Gloucester’s beaches appear frequently in Avery’s body of work, connecting him to his predecessors, including Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, who similarly depicted this idyllic locale. “We were followers of the sea,” Sally Avery recalled. “On the beaches of Provincetown, Gloucester and Gaspe we braved the surf and rocky shore, spending endless hours contemplating the sea... Always the sea beckoned, at times with figures, at times with boats. But it was the sea, alternately black and mysterious or ruddy and gay that expressed the mystery and independence that makes its lure unfathomable. For Milton this was a subject to challenge again and again” (quoted in Milton Avery, Seascapes, New York, 1987, n.p.). Milton and Sally met in Gloucester in 1924, likely contributing to the affection with which he viewed this place.

Avery captures a scene near Gloucester with colorful exuberance in the present work, rendering the sea and shoreline in a bold, contrasting palette of green and pink. The compositional elements are simplified into and delineated from one another as separate, contrasting color areas that evoke the warm weather and clear light of a summer’s day. Barbara Haskell explains Avery’s growing preoccupation with exploring the expressive power and structural function of color in this period, writing, “As the forties advanced, Avery’s concentration on color and the simplification of shapes became increasingly intense. As before, color created the dominant impression and set the emotional tone, but now Avery’s choice of colors and their combination became more striking and daring. Multiple areas of pigment were blended together into evenly toned areas marked by Avery’s unmistakable color sense” (Milton Avery, New York, 1982, pp. 92, 108).

In Raymond’s Beach, Avery enlivens his composition by overlaying the green expanse of the ocean with expressively applied dabs and dashes of white pigment, a practice typically seen in his work of the 1940s. Abandoning traditional linear perspective and illusionistic recession, he instead employs color to organize space and depth within the picture plane. The slightly skewed perspective further reinforces the flatness of the pictorial space, ultimately allowing Avery to achieve the compelling synthesis between realism and abstraction that lies at the core of his celebrated aesthetic.