Milton Avery (1885–1965)

Adolescence, 1947

Oil and graphite on canvas, 30 × 40 in. (76.2 × 101.6 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection. Image © 2018 The Milton Avery Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York., 1992.3

Defying classification, Milton Avery developed a distinctive representational style in which domestic scenes are transformed into abstract, flat expanses of warm color. Although his use of arbitrary shades and simplified forms reveals his interest in the work of the French modernist Henri Matisse (1869–1954), Avery often denied the connection. Fifteen-year-old March (b. 1932), Avery’s daughter and one of his favorite subjects, is the central figure of Adolescence. Her pale, featureless face contrasts with the glowing colors surrounding her. March’s figure, the main focus of the painting, is intimately defined by her environment. Avery exaggerated the length of her legs and cropped her feet as if to underscore the peculiar combination of awkwardness and grace that characterizes the teen years. Aloof and absorbed in her reading, she is the personification of adolescent leisure.

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