While finding breathtaking art in the Hamptons is as simple as walking down any given village Main Street, discovering rare works by the great masters of the 20th century happens almost exclusively at Phillips Southampton. On view through July 31, and soon to be available to buyers, is Milton Avery: A Sense of Place, featuring the works of one of the highly acclaimed American artists of the era.
“Milton Avery is one of the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century, whose relevance continues to the present day,” says Robert Manley, deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of 20th century and contemporary art. “His appeal travels far beyond typical geographic constraints, a feat that is now underscored by the upcoming major retrospective of his work organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and curated by Edith Devaney.”
Curated by Milton Avery’s grandson Sean Cavanaugh and Waqas Wajahat, Milton Avery: A Sense of Place features approximately 50 works from the Milton Avery Trust and the private collection of Academy Award winner Peter O’Toole. The selection focuses on the various locales that served as inspiration for Avery’s work, spanning three decades of the artist’s lauded career. All works featured in the exhibition will either be offered through Phillips’ private sales platform or at auction in Phillips’ October Sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art in London.
“Among those dedicated to his work was the celebrated actor Peter O’Toole,” Manley says. “A household name across the globe for the past five decades, the celebrated actor was a devoted art collector for much of his lifetime and built a remarkable collection, with a particular affinity for Avery’s works.”
O’Toole acquired all three of his Avery works from London’s Waddington Galleries between 1963 and 1964, just after his starring role in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, which earned 10 Academy Award nominations and seven wins. These works—”Bird by Wild Sea,” “White Gull Resting” and “Gulls in Fog”—each portray the shoreline, a common theme in Avery’s work, and have remained in the loving care of O’Toole’s family for five decades.
Milton Avery: A Sense of Place offers a rare look at the artist’s work from the 1930s through the 1960s, from his distinguished career in New York City portraiture to his landscapes of Provincetown, where he worked alongside abstract artists Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. They, as well as Barnett Newman, credit Avery as an influence in their artistic development, and his breakthroughs in color and form balance changed the way emerging Abstract Expressionists approached their work.
Avery’s unwavering legacy is a testament to his ability to conjure both a sense of place and atmosphere, while keeping his compositions pared down and colorful. Though he only visited Europe once in his life, his style more closely matches that of European Experimentalism than the American Impressionism and landscape traditions of the time. Perusing through his unique landscapes and seascapes in this exhibition, it’s clear that he found inspiration wherever he traveled, with works hailing from Upstate New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Gaspe Peninsula in Canada and Cape Cod.
“For this exhibition, we are honored to have the opportunity to work with the Milton Avery Trust, the family of Peter O’Toole, Waqas Wajahat and several other international private collections in bringing these rare-to-market works to the public,” Manley adds.
Phillips Southampton is located at 1 Hampton Road, Southampton. To learn more about the October auction and private sales, call 212-848-1750 or visit phillips.com.