A Finding Aid to the Milton Avery Papers,
1926-1982
(bulk 1950-1982)
, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.avermilt
Creators:
Avery, Milton, 1885-1965
Dates:
1926-1982
bulk 1950-1982
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
2.8 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of abstract painter Milton Avery measure 2.8 linear feet and date from 1926 to 1982, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1950 to 1982. Almost the entire collection consists of records of the Milton Avery Trust (2.4 linear feet) maintained by Avery's wife Sally, who served as a trustee. Milton Avery's business and personal correspondence (five folders) contains letters from friends and fellow artists, including a few from George Duthuit, Louis Eilshemius, Marsden Hartley, Wallace Putnam, and Mark Rothko. Also found are scattered writings about Avery, price lists, estate records, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and news clippings.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of abstract painter Milton Avery measure 2.8 linear feet and date from 1926 to 1982, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1950 to 1982. Almost the entire collection consists of business files maintained by Milton Avery's wife Sally as a trustee for the Milton Avery Trust (2.4 linear feet). Milton Avery's business and personal correspondence (five folders) contains letters from friends and fellow artists, including a few from George Duthuit, Louis Eilshemius, Marsden Hartley, Wallace Putnam, and Mark Rothko. Also found are scattered writings about Avery, price lists, estate records, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and news clippings.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 7 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1964, 1975 (Box 1; 1 folder)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1935-1981 (Box 1; 10 folders)
  • Series 3: Subject Files, 1950-1981 (Box 1-4; 2.4 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Writings, circa 1951-1979 (Box 4; 5 folders)
  • Series 5: Financial & Legal Records, 1943-1982 (Box 4; 6 folders)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, 1926, 1962-1977 (Box 4; 4 folders)
  • Series 7: Photographs, circa 1970 (Box 4; 1 folder)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Milton Avery (1885-1965) was born in Altmar, New York and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Around 1905 he began attending the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford where he studied life drawing while also working full-time as a factory worker and file clerk. In 1915 he had his first public exhibition and, in 1918, transferred to the School of Art Society in Hartford. In 1924 he met Sally Michel (1905-2003), a student at the Art Students League in New York, and moved to New York City to be closer to her. They married one year later. Around this time Avery also altered his year of birth to 1893, perhaps due to the age difference between him and Sally. After their marriage Sally worked as an illustrator so that Avery could paint full time.
During the early 1920s, Avery's works were traditional figurative and genre subjects, influenced by American Impressionism. By the mid 1920s, with his move to New York, Avery began to simplify his forms and use broader expanses of flat color. Although his paintings became increasingly abstract, he never fully abandoned representational subject matter, painting figure groups, still lifes, landscapes, and seascapes. By the mid-1940s, Avery's work was characterized by a reduction of elements and elimination of detail, filled with an emphasis on arbitrary color.
Avery exhibited in a group show at The Opportunity Gallery in 1928 which also featured Mark Rothko and the two became close friends. He became friends with many other artists including Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, and Marsden Hartley. Avery's color work was an important influence on many younger artists, particularly Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, Helen Frankenthaler, and other Color Field painters. The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. was the first museum to purchase one of his paintings in 1929 and to give him his first solo museum exhibition in 1944.
In 1949 Milton Avery suffered a major heart attack and began making monotypes during his recovery. He returned to painting despite periods of ill-health, and his reputation grew rapidly over the next ten years, culminating in a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1960. He also exhibited along with his wife Sally Avery and their daughter, March Avery Cavanaugh (born in 1932), both of whom were also painters. Avery died in 1965 and left behind an oeuvre of paintings that numbers in the thousands. His wife Sally managed his estate and the sale of his works to many major museums, and served as a trustee for the Milton Avery Trust until her death in 2003.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
The papers of Milton Avery in the Archives of American Art were digitized in
2007
, and total
6149
images.
Materials lent for microfilming are available on 35mm microfilm reels N68-95, N68-115, N69-63, and 2535 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Processing Information
Many of the letters loaned by Sally Avery and microfilmed on reel N69-63 were later donated. These were merged with additional accessions and fully processed, arranged, and described in 2007 by Erin Corley, and digitized in 2007 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming on reels N68-95, N68-115, N69-63, and 2535 including six scrapbooks, a sketchbook, Christmas cards, exhibition catalogs, and photographs. Loaned materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Author
Erin Corley
Sponsor
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Provenance
The Milton Avery papers were donated in 1968, 1969, and 1982 by his widow Sally Avery, including a few letters previously loaned for microfilming.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
The collection has been digitized and is available online via the Archives of American Art's website.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Milton Avery papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Milton Avery papers, 1926-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painting, Abstract Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Avery, Sally Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eilshemius, Louis M. (Louis Michel), 1864-1941 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Duthuit, Georges, 1891- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Putnam, Wallace, 1899-1989 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hartley, Marsden, 1877-1943 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/