I think a painting should look as if it just happened. It should be a miracle...maybe you did put a lot of work into it, but no one should know it when they look at it.

Sally Michel Avery

Sally Michel Avery 1902–2003

Born in Brooklyn in 1902, Sally Michel studied painting at the Arts Student League and met her future husband, fellow artist Milton Avery, in 1924 in Gloucester, MA. He moved to New York to be with her and they married in 1926. Together, they had what has been referred to as “a relationship with few parallels in the history of art.” Over the following decades, Sally worked as a freelance illustrator and acted as the primary financial support for the family until Milton’s budding career took off. She would later reflect that she took no issue with Milton being in the foreground of their artistic success, explaining that she “wanted all the spotlight to be on Milton”.

Sally and Milton were not just life partners, they also shared a studio space and were critics and collaborators for one another. It is no surprise, then, that they developed a singular “Avery style” described by Robert Hobbs as an “American folk art version of Parisian modernism” influenced heavily by Fauvism and Tonalism. The Averys traveled extensively and took much of their inspiration from the many locales they visited, including New England, California, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. After Milton’s death in 1960, Sally continued illustrating and painting until her passing in 2003 at the age of 100.

She left behind an impressive body of work, full of ebullient colors and subject matter that speaks to both her talent as an artist as well as her famously positive and joyful outlook on life. Her work can be found in many important private and public collections, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.

Auction Results Sally Michel Avery