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Sally Michel

 (1902 - 2003)
Sally Avery Michel was active/lived in New York.  Sally Michel is known for abstract figure, landscape, illustrator.

Sally Michel

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Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Sally Michel
A modernist painter and illustrator, Sally Michel, also known as Sally Avery, worked in an early modernist style. She attended the Art Students League in New York and exhibited at the Child's Gallery in Boston.

In 1926, she married artist Milton Avery, and they worked together closely as each other's models and critic, and some persons have suggested that her husband, Milton Avery, used many of her ideas in his paintings.

In deference to raising her family, she put her husband's career ahead of her own but did sell illustrations to The New York Times.  After her husband's death, she has received increased recognition.

D. Wigmore Fine Art of Manhattan held a solo exhibition of canvases by Sally Michel as well as a few works by her friend Doris Lee. The New York Times review of that exhibition by Roberta Smith, January 14, 2016, has these words:

"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.

This excellent exhibition sheds needed light, presenting about 30 of Michel’s paintings from the 1950s, lent by the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation. Mostly landscapes, they are clumsier but also more intense, less Olympian than Avery’s works. They tend to be smaller and richer in color, which compresses their force. But most important, Michel dissented from her husband’s spare use of paint applied in thin washes of color (which presaged stain painting).

Her mountain and lake views are actively worked in contrasting textures and patterns. In Forest Edge, numerous greens are painted over one another, as if to indicate different species of trees. Sometimes, as in Field in Hilly Landscape, a blanketing forest is enlivened by tiny bits of bare canvas that suggest light or movement. The grays and whites of the nearly abstract Birds, which seems to depict gulls above a narrow band of waves, display a fairly juicy impasto. In another direction, the anomalous Urban Landscape — a street view with bare trees and dark buildings, a rare subject for Michel — has the simplified Precisionism of George Ault.

Mixed in with Michel’s canvases are several by her friend Doris Lee (1905-1983), whose style leans more toward charming illustration. These works serve as a telling foil to Michel’s weightier sensibility.

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Roberta Smith, "Sally Michel, Landscapes of Color and Texture," The New York Times, Web, 14 Jan. 2016

Biography from Childs Gallery
Biography photo for Sally Michel
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, Adloph Gotlieb 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.

In more recent years, several retrospectives have been mounted; her paintings have been included in several museum exhibitions throughout the country, and are part of the permanent collections of The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., The Metropolitan Museum, NY, The Wadsworth Athenaeum, The Corcoran Gallery, and many other fine public and private collections.

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About  Sally Michel

Born:  1902
Died:   2003
Known for:  abstract figure, landscape, illustrator