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Milton Avery 18851965
When Milton Avery made this self-portrait in 1938, he was emerging as a masterful American painter with a devoted following. The dark hues of his early modernist paintings gradually transformed into brighter, complexly layered colors, and strongly outlined, flat forms. Avery's innovative work attracted many young artists who would be leaders of the abstract expressionist movement.

Although best known as a colorist, Avery was an inveterate draftsman, who started sketching first thing in the morning. In this drawing, the interplay of freely rendered lines evokes textures from the artist's thinning hair to his warm sweater. Areas of cross-hatching define the face with strong light on one side and soft shadow on the other. A closer view reveals the graceful hooked lines of his technique and the artist's clear delight in linear pattern on a flat surface. The drawing also reflects Avery's habit of drawing his family and friends: inside and on the back of the folded page are lively scenes from the family's vacation.

Ink on paper, 1938
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
(C) 2001 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
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