• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2058

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 18

    Milton Avery (1885-1965)

    Portrait of George Constant

    Price Realised  


    Milton Avery (1885-1965)
    Portrait of George Constant
    signed 'Milton Avery' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm.)

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    In 1951, Milton Avery joined the Grace Borgenicht Gallery, where George Constant (1892-1978) was also represented. Born in Greece, Constant immigrated to the United States in 1910 and attended Washington University in St. Louis and the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, where he studied with Charles Hawthorne and George Bellows. Constant exhibited modernist paintings and prints at the prestigious Valentine Gallery in New York, produced work for the WPA/Federal Art Project, and in 1940 founded the Society of Modern Painters and Sculptors. Though Constant and Avery exhibited concurrently at the Grace Borgenicht Gallery, the artists were previously acquainted through their participation with the Hampton Bays Art Group. In the 1940s this group of artists--including David Burliuk, Nicolai Cikovsky, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Arshile Gorky, and John Graham--began to retreat to Hampton Bays, Long Island, where they enjoyed the calm country environment and chose to depict each other and their surrounding environs as subjects in their paintings.

    Avery's straightforward, realistic portrayal of Constant presents the artist from a side profile, seated and preoccupied by his own designs with a cigarette in his mouth. His black hair is distinctly contrasted by capricious streaks of green that highlight his olive complexion. Constant appears unengaged by the viewer, concentrating on his own portrait of the nude woman posing behind him. Well-known for his paintings and watercolors of women, Constant emerges both as the subject of Avery's portrait and as the potential creator of the female nude. Avery pays tribute to his friend's talent and creativity by showing the artist at work in this portrait.


    The artist.
    George Constant, acquired from the above.
    By descent.
    Christie's, New York, 11 March 1993, lot 244.
    Private collection, Connecticut, acquired from the above.
    Michael Altman & Co., Inc., New York.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1997.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Private American Collection