American Art

American Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 5. Blue Gulls - Blue Sea.

Property from the Estate of an Important Midwest Collector

Milton Avery

Blue Gulls - Blue Sea

Auction Closed

May 19, 03:38 PM GMT


500,000 - 700,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from the Estate of an Important Midwest Collector

Milton Avery

1885 - 1965

Blue Gulls - Blue Sea

signed Milton Avery and dated 1955 (lower left); also bears inscription (on the reverse)

oil on canvas

32 by 47 inches

(81.3 by 119.4 cm)

This lot is accompanied by a letter of opinion from the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation.

Carmel College, Oxfordshire, England
Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri, circa 1960
Private collection, St. Louis, Missouri
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1984

Helen Lambert, "British Boom Milton Avery as One of Best U.S. Artists," International Herald Tribune, October 1962, n.p.

John Russell, "The World of Art: The Tranquil View," London Sunday Times, September 1962, n.p.

Jane Stockwood, "Art: Milton Avery," Queen, October 1962, n.p.

London, England, Waddington Galleries, Milton Avery, September-October 1962, no. 17
Corpus Christi, Texas, Firebird Gallery, Avery at Sea, June-July 1983

The sea always held a particular place of importance for Milton Avery. Though the works he created throughout his long and productive career always remained rooted in the representational world, those he painted during the late 1950s and early 1960s constitute his most abstract conception of seascape motifs. During the summers he spent in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Avery was often moved by the broad expanses of sea, sand and sky he encountered there. It was during this period that the artist developed the minimal and reductive qualities that most clearly demonstrate the influence he had on Post War painters such as Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, both of whom he befriended in New York in the late 1920s when all three artists were exhibiting at the Opportunity Gallery on 56th Street. Avery returned to Provincetown each summer between 1957 and 1960 and reunited with Rothko and Gottlieb. The summers at Provincetown provided an especially close period of working proximity, thus it is not surprising that the paintings he produced in this period share striking similarities in both aesthetic and intent with the works of this younger generation. Both Rothko and Gottlieb spoke explicitly of their admiration for Avery’s singular vision and the role he played in shaping their nascent aesthetics, particularly his understanding of color and its immense, multi-sensory power.

Avery’s inclusion of the gulls in the present work attests to his lifelong commitment to engaging with representational subject matter. Yet the composition of Blue Gulls-Blue Sea is strikingly simplified. Indeed, in works like Blue Gulls-Blue Sea, we see an artist leaving the realm of pure representation and thus compelling his viewer to consider form, surface, texture, and color above subject. Like the most successful works from Avery’s mature period, Blue Gulls-Blue Sea foreshadows the work of Post-War painters like Rothko and Gottlieb, who would go onto push his innovative ideas fully into the non-objective realm.