A classic work from the mid-1940s, Milton Avery's Tirca features the artist's distinctive color scheme paired with his use of a strong graphic pattern. Milton Avery's subject, Tirca Karlis, a modern art dealer of the early twentieth century, sits on a loveseat in the corner of a room. Her brightly colored clothes--a yellow beret, red scarf, orange sweater and dark yellow skirt--provide a strong yet sympathetic contrast for the green and yellow pattern of the upholstery on the loveseat. The walls and the floor of the room are articulated in three shades of pink, and a sense of the space is convincingly conveyed.
Avery's use of color is perhaps the most characteristic feature of his work. For Avery, color was more than one element of the whole composition, rather it was central to the work as a whole. "Matisse remained a major impetus behind this striking adoption of saturated, arbitrary color. Although Avery's awareness of Matisse's work had preceded his affiliation in 1935 with the Valentine Gallery, his new alliance with Matisse's American dealer revitalized his interest in an artist whose sensibilities were much like his own. Matisse had written earlier that 'Fauvism came into being because we suddenly wanted to abandon the imitation of the local colors of nature and sought by experimenting with pure color to obtain increasingly powerful --obviously instantaneous--effects, and also to achieve greater luminosity.' A similar desire impelled Avery, whose own commitment to color and to form reduction had been firmly established early in his career. . . . Essentially, Matisse's example gave Avery license to extend the concerns he was already pursuing. His color after 1940 became much bolder as he created the mood of a situation by discarding the constraints of naturalistic hues and favoring a saturated, non-naturalistic palette." (B. Haskell, Milton Avery, New York, 1982, p. 72)
By 1943, Avery was exhibiting his work with Paul Rosenberg & Co., the prestigious modern art dealer, and by 1944, Avery's works were also being exhibited at the New York branch of Paris-based Durand-Ruel Galleries. "Avery's prestige reached a new plateau. That year--1944-- his first one-man museum exhibition opened at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, D.C., and in January 1945 two concurrent exhibitions of his work were held on Fifty-seventh Street--at the Rosenberg and Durand-Ruel galleries. Maude Riley summed up Avery's reputation: 'After remaining unnoticed for a good many years Milton Avery has of late become a sort of institution. No one remains ignorant of his past; and while enthusiasm varies, a general cordiality prevails in regard to this innocently sophisticated form of picture making.'" (Milton Avery, pp. 77-80)
The mid-1940s was the most important phase of Milton Avery's career. Creatively, he fed off of the strong creative spirit that surrounded him in the New York galleries that showed his work and took the inspiration to another level. "In general, developments in Avery's art had been gradual rather than abrupt, and it sometimes took over a decade for an aspect of his style to reach maturity. Now, however, change was sudden. The graphic detailing and brushy paint application that had dominated his work of the previous six years vanished. In their place were denser, more evenly modulated areas of flattened color contained within crisply delineated forms. . . . . Avery retained color as the primary vehicle of feeling and expression, but in his increased abstraction he achieved a greater parity between recognizable forms and abstract shapes. In effect Avery combined the non-associative color from his earlier work with the flattening of shape and homogenization of color developed in the early thirties. The mature Avery style was born." (Milton Avery, pp. 85-89)
This work will be included in Dr. Marla Price's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Milton Avery.