Sally Michel Avery

Sally Avery Michel (1902-2003)

A modernist painter and illustrator, Sally Michel, also known as Sally Avery, worked in an early modernist style. She attended the Art Students League in New York and exhibited at the Childs Gallery in Boston. 

In 1926, she married artist Milton Avery, and they worked together closely as each others models and critic, and some persons have suggested that her husband, Milton Avery, used many of her ideas in his paintings. 

In deference to raising her family, she put her husbands career ahead of her own but did sell illustrations to The New York Times.  After her husbands death, she has received increased recognition.

D. Wigmore Fine Art of Manhattan held a solo exhibition of canvases by Sally Michel as well as a few works by her friend Doris Lee. The New York Times review of that exhibition by Roberta Smith, January 14, 2016, has these words:

"Without Sally Michel there would have been no Milton Avery, or at least not as much. They met in 1924 and married in 1926. For much of their marriage, Michel (1902-2003) worked as a freelance illustrator, enabling Avery (1885-1965) to focus on his painting. A painter as well, Michel made this sacrifice because she was convinced of Averys greatness. She also adapted the simplified forms from his style, which put her further in his shadow.

This excellent exhibition sheds needed light, presenting about 30 of Michel’s paintings from the 1950s, lent by the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation. Mostly landscapes, they are clumsier but also more intense, less Olympian than Avery’s works. They tend to be smaller and richer in color, which compresses their force. But most important, Michel dissented from her husbands spare use of paint applied in thin washes of color (which presaged stain painting).

Her mountain and lake views are actively worked in contrasting textures and patterns. In Forest Edge,numerous greens are painted over one another, as if to indicate different species of trees. Sometimes, as in Field in Hilly Landscape, a blanketing forest is enlivened by tiny bits of bare canvas that suggest light or movement. The grays and whites of the nearly abstract Birds, which seems to depict gulls above a narrow band of waves, display a fairly juicy impasto. In another direction, the anomalous Urban Landscape — a street view with bare trees and dark buildings, a rare subject for Michel — has the simplified Precisionism of George Ault.

Mixed in with Michels canvases are several by her friend Doris Lee (1905-1983), whose style leans more toward charming illustration. These works serve as a telling foil to Michel’s weightier sensibility.


Sources: 
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Roberta Smith, "Sally Michel, Landscapes of Color and Texture," The New York Times, Web, 14 Jan. 2016

 

 Works

Lady with Cat×

Oil
14 x 18 inch
35.6 x 45.7 cm
Rushing Brook #2×

Oil
34 x 50 inch
86.4 x 127 cm