In 1943 Milton Avery left Valentine Dudensig's gallery to join the Paul Rosenberg Gallery. The association with an important New York gallery and its connection to the modern French masters gave the artist a newfound confidence. As a result, Avery's productivity increased and his painting style began to develop in a new direction. "As the forties advanced, Avery's concentration on color and the simplification of shapes became increasingly intense" (Barbara Haskell, Milton Avery, New York, 1983 p.92).
Haskell writes, "As a means of heightening awareness of his resonant color harmonies, he stripped his design to essentials and neutralized the picture plane as much as possible by avoiding both 'paint quality' and brushwork. To ensure a dry, unobtrusive surface, he mixed his paint with large amounts of turpentine rather than linseed oil and chose canvas that was slightly absorbent and not too rough. Space in his paintings came to be determined by the interaction of adjacent hues - not by linear perspective or value contrast. This was a significant innovation for an American artist" (Milton Avery, p.108).
In Woman on Wave a lone figure is seated on a rocky edge above the sea, her back to the viewer as she watches an incoming wave break against the shore below. The figure is rendered in shades of blue against a landscape of balanced earth tones. "Avery's approach opened new formal possibilities to American paintings and exerted a profound influence on the group of younger artists whose work came to focus on the expressive potential of color. Both Rothko and (Barnett) Newman saw in Avery's disavowal of material paint deposits a way to make color evoke the sublime. Throughout the forties both artists continued to turn to Avery's work for inspiration" (Milton Avery, p. 108).
The landscapes of the forties were often inspired by Avery's summer travels with his family. By the end of the decade he had traveled to Mexico, California, the Canadian Northwest and Maine, all of which he depicted in various paintings. In the summer of 1948, the Averys spent the summer at Pemaquid Point, Maine, the inspiration for Woman on Wave.
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