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Black Jumper

Milton Avery, American, 1885 - 1965

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

54 3/16 × 33 3/4 inches (137.6 × 85.7 cm) Frame: 56 1/2 × 36 1/4 inches (143.5 × 92.1 cm)

© Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 166, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of Mrs. Maurice J. Speiser in memory of Raymond A. Speiser, 1968

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Living and working in New York in the 1930s and 1940s, American painter Milton Avery established relationships with younger Abstract Expressionist artists such as Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb. Avery’s style, in which figures and objects are flattened into interlocking wedges of saturated, luminous color within a shallow pictorial space, was highly influential in the development of Abstract Expressionism and its new artistic vocabulary. This portrait of the artist’s twelve-year-old daughter, March, is a classic example of Avery’s compositional techniques with its simplified forms divested of identifying detail and stark delineation of shapes.

Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    The model for this painting was Milton Avery's twelve-year-old daughter, March. The artist first painted her when she was just a week old, and he made so many pictures of her while she was growing up that in 1947 the Durand-Ruel Galleries in New York staged an exhibition entitled My Daughter, March. Black Jumper is a classic example of Avery's mature style, in which figures and objects are divested of identifying detail and are flattened to become interlocking shapes similar to the pieces in a child's jigsaw puzzle. Here Avery utilized luminous flat masses of vibrant complimentary colors (purple and yellow, red and cobalt green) that maximize the overall visual impact of the painting. Avery's work communicates, in his own words, "the ecstasy of the moment," which he hoped to achieve by seizing one sharp instant in nature, in this case an awkward, gangly adolescent modeling new clothes. With her legs planted defiantly apart and her hands clasped demurely in front of her, March dominates the composition. Although Avery left her face blank, generalizing the figure to a universal type or essence, Black Jumper remains a tender portrayal of a proud father's love for his daughter. Melissa Kerr, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 214.

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