‘Avery’s paintings abound in affectionate discriminations. There is a warmth of memory, perception, and association in them that suggests an eye nourished on the most delicate shades of feeling. He returns to personal and familiar subjects again and again, seeming never to tire of their interest – which is always a pictorial interest. His wit preserves their freshness, while his elegance confers on them the kind of lyric beauty one normally expects to find in a subject encountered for the first time’
Purchased by Leslie Waddington’s father Victor in 1962, and shown at Waddington Galleries that same year, Girl on Red Stool (1961) is an intimate expression of Milton Avery’s human touch. While he is best known for his sublimely coloured large-scale landscape paintings that waver deliciously between abstraction and figuration, Avery also studied his friends and family in the same unique painterly mode, imbuing his compositions with the vital warmth of affectionate feeling. For all that it presents a puzzle of elegantly interlocking abstract planes, this painting is also a display of the artist’s emotional sensitivity. A figure – the artist’s wife, Sally Avery – appears in a scene of domestic repose. Legs crossed, turned away from the viewer, she sits at a drawing table absorbed in her work; she was herself an illustrator, and a steadfast and devoted provider for the family. Her ochre clothing gently offsets a muted grey-blue interior, her dark hair and the strong lines of the red stool forming a pictorial scaffolding that anchors the composition together. The interplay between evanescence and solidity is achieved through Avery’s profound chromatic command, resulting in a tableau that conveys a quiet sense of fondness and cherished reminiscence.