Born in 1902, Sally Avery knew by the age of five that she wanted to be an artist. After high school, she continued her studies at the Art Students League in New York City. In 1924, she spent the summer painting in East Gloucester, where she met and fell in love with the artist in the next studio, Milton Avery, (1893 - 1965). At this time in his career, Milton Avery was painting Impressionist works and was living with his mother in Connecticut. He soon followed Sally to New York. Two years later, they were married.

For the next forty years, the two artists were inseparable. They were each other's model, collaborator, critic and champion. Together they created a style of "high modernist" painting that is most often solely attributed to Milton's hand.


Although they painted side by side, their purposes were quite different. Sally made no effort to exhibit or sell her art, but instead managed Milton's career and the Avery household. For many years, it was her work as an illustrator for "The New York Times", children's books, and other publications, which supported the family.


During the summer, the Avery family would often spend their vacations travelling throughout New England, Canada, Mexico, and Europe from their home in New York. Their excursions were often in the company of their close friends and fellow artists, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb and Barnett Newman.


By the mid-1950's, their daughter, March, had grown up and Milton's works had finally begun to sell. Both enabled Sally to devote more time to her own painting (still largely for her own pleasure). She exhibited at a handful of shows during the decade.


Roberta Smith wrote "Without Sally Michel there would have been no Milton Avery, or at least not as much. They met in 1924 and married in 1926. For much of their marriage, Michel (1902-2003) worked as a freelance illustrator, enabling Avery (1885-1965) to focus on his painting. A painter as well, Michel made this sacrifice because she was convinced of Avery’s greatness. She also adapted the simplified forms from his style, which put her further in his shadow."


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