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American Paintings - before 1950

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The Card Players

20th century
66.3 cm x 86.3 cm (26 1/8 in. x 34 in.)

Milton Avery (Altmar, New York, 1885 - 1965, New York City) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991
Accession Number: 1991.178

These card players are not yet involved in a game. One figure faces an empty surface. The second, gesturing, turns away.
In Milton Avery’s typical style for mid-career works of the 1940s and 50s, he arranges irregular blocks of closely valued blues into recognizable things: chair, hat, window, face, feet. Yet, these featureless colored shapes create a flat, abstract quality, rendering a scene we recognize but can’t quite make out. We sense uneasiness beneath a calm surface.
Perhaps tinged with unresolved wartime urgency, Avery’s vision carries other unsettling details: tilted planes, wavering background curves. He combines Fauvism’s unreserved use of color with the controlled balances of cubism, yet he tempers and cools Europe’s bold statements into an undercurrent of American uncertainty.

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