cover image Milton Avery

Milton Avery

Robert Carleton Hobbs. Hudson Hills Press, $85 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-933920-95-8

Milton Avery (1885-1965) has often been called ``the American Matisse,'' but that tag seems to miss his essential qualities. Hobbs ( Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years ) has a better handle on Avery's quietly marvelous paintings. The taciturn, wry, unpretentious Connecticut Yankee, who worshiped Braque and Dufy as well as Matisse, ``humanized European modernism,'' imaged the world as an abstraction ``populated by people who are caricatures of their former selves.'' In so doing, we are told, Avery invented ``a new type of folk art.'' While that rubric does not altogether fit many of his pictures, this gorgeously illustrated monograph marries superb color plates to a penetrating biographical-critical essay. Hobbs tracks Avery as he created radiant harmonies, shimmering seascapes, calm scenes in which the viewer merges with nature--a metaphysical art about how art mediates and counterfeits reality. (Dec.)