This dramatic change in Avery’s style is largely attributed to the artist’s new professional affiliation with the French art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, which began when he joined Rosenberg’s New York gallery in 1942. Rosenberg facilitated Avery’s creative experimentation by introducing the artist to the work of the modern European painters he also represented, including Georges Braque, Henri Matisse
and Pablo Picasso, the last of whom arguably influenced Avery most directly. He studied the Spanish master deeply during this time, observing how Picasso simplified color and form and incorporated this reductive style into his own compositions. Rosenberg also preferred structural clarity through the representations of “clearly delineated planes of dense, homogenous color” (Barbara Haskell, Milton Avery, 1982, p. 89). In The Seamstress, Avery renders his protagonist primarily as a pattern of contiguous planes with a precise delineation of color, echoing many of the compositions Picasso produced during the 1930s such as Seated Bather (Fig. 2).
Under Rosenberg, Avery was also guaranteed sales of at least 25 paintings twice each year and was thus freed from financial uncertainty for the first time. This newfound independence allowed the artist to embrace the unique and modernist style that is exemplified in The Seamstress. It was during this time that, in the words of Sally, “his spirits soared and his paintings blossomed. His color became clearer, sharper, and higher keyed, his shapes more stark and hard-edged. This combined to produce some of the most enchanting work of his career. There is a special radiance in the work of this period” (Ibid., p. 9).
1944, the year Avery painted The Seamstress, was one of significant creative stimulus and the artist produced the greatest number of works than in any other year of his career. From this pivotal point onwards, Avery would continue to experiment with the dynamic power and structural function of color through a further reduction of form, space, and tone. This evolution presaged the work of significant Post-War artists such as Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko, who would push Avery’s modernism to the extent of chromatic abstraction. The strong influence of Avery's work can be seen in Mark Rothko’s No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow) from 1958 (Fig. 3), in which the artist extends Avery’s application of bold, pure color completely into the non-objective realm.
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