Forty years ago, Sanford Schwartz wrote in these pages about the Milton Avery retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He wrote that it was “overhung, yet when you leave you feel that you haven’t seen enough, and that Avery himself has passed you by.” He struggled to reconcile the claims made for Avery (1885–1965) by other critics—the view of Avery as the true American scion of European modernism and one of our premier colorists—with his own impression of the paintings’ “strangled strength.” Schwartz wished for the inclusion of earlier pictures, which in “their murky and bumbling way . . . give the viewer what the Whitney’s show makes him want most: a flesh-and-blood sense of who Avery himself was.”


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