In 1957, Milton Avery's approach to painting evolved as he began to intensify the abstraction in his works. Seen with increasing frequency as Avery approached closer to his last years, the artist simplified colors and shapes as seen in Dawning Sun, to lend an emptiness and quietude to these later works. In the present work, he depicts a glowing globe descending in a fiery sky, which subtly interlocks with the darkening sea below. Layers of thinly painted washes heighten the intensity of reds and oranges that are reflected in the movement of the deep blue sea, which appears to rock slightly until it rises in the crescent of a burgeoning wave on the right side of the canvas.
The artist creates tension and balance through his selection of complimentary and contrasting colors and shapes. While he simplifies the sky and water to their broadest possible forms, he invigorates these shapes through his sophisticated use of imbued hues. Here, Avery uses blocks of color both as expression and as a way to modulate space as he suggests recession through the planes of color and their arrangement on the two-dimensional surface. In 1952, Avery discussed his use of color, "I do not use linear perspective, but achieve depth by color-the function of one color with another. I strip the design to the essentials; the facts do not interest me as much as the essence of nature." (as quoted in R. Hobbs, Milton Avery: The Late Paintings, New York, 2001, p. 51) In its simple, abstracted form and broad swaths of luminous, nuanced color, Dawning Sun is an elegiac example to Avery's remarkable artistic legacy.