Detail of a green and yellow work by Milton Avery with alternating strokes of translucent and opaque watercolor

Milton Avery

American, 1885–1965

Pink Tree, 1953

Watercolor on paper

30 x 11 inches

Signed and dated lower left

After studying art in Connecticut as a young man, Avery moved to New York in 1916 and took classes at the Art Students League in Manhattan. There he became friends with artists such as Marsden Hartley, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Avery first worked in a postimpressionist style, but by the 1930s he had moved away from the confines of labels and worked somewhere between realism and abstraction. He focused on the way forms met and the importance of edges, juxtaposing contrasting shapes of color and interlocking forms. He once said, “I like to seize the one sharp instant in nature, to imprison it by means of ordered shapes and space relationships. To this end I eliminate and simplify, leaving apparently nothing but color and pattern.”

Avery did not use watercolors as studies but rather saw them as independent works and loved the spontaneity of working on paper. As was his practice in this medium, Pink Tree was created with alternating strokes of translucent and opaque watercolor. He used a rich range of colors to capture the emotion of this particular moment while abstracting and simplifying the form of a tree—always a favorite subject for Avery. The elongated forms are further emphasized by his choice of a sharply vertical format—with the trees pushed to the upper edge of the paper.

Detail of a green and yellow work by Milton Avery with alternating strokes of translucent and opaque watercolor