Kenyon College



Milton Avery

Hens. 1947.
Oil on Canvas.
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Graham Gund.


Testing the boundaries of figurative painting, Milton Avery approaches everyday scenes with a formalist eye. A frequent painter of agrarian life, Avery condenses rural landscapes into flat planes of expressionistic color. This treatment befits the American pastoral genre, itself an abstraction of reality. The deep, muted palette of Hens is typical of Avery’s work of the 1940s, as is the painting’s uneven surface. Painting over a darkly stained, but unprimed, canvas, he builds up color in some areas of the composition, while laying others bare. This technique draws attention to the canvas surface, and anticipates the cult of flatness propagated by a subsequent generation of American colorists.

Virginia McBride ‘15