Milton Avery’s Three Cows on a Hillside, painted in 1945, showcases his unique artistic style that fuses modernism and color field painting with a vision of American life. Avery was an innovative American Modernist artist who defied stylistic trends by using bold colors and abstract forms to convey his subjects.
Avery’s artistic development was influenced by his classes at the Art Society of Hartford and the Connecticut League of Art Students. His work features flattened planes and simplified figures that connect earlier modernist movements like Impressionism with mid-century genres such as color field painting. This allowed him to bypass traditional rendering techniques and focus more intently on expressing emotions.
The piece displays three cows sitting against a backdrop of green hillsides under a powder blue sky, painted using shape-filled hues to provide depth to his functional interpretation of the scene. The flattened geometry in composition gives the cows flat patches where white faces are differentiated from their larger black bodies through watercolor outlines brushing through them thinly. Although this approach creates minimal value contrasts in the absence of shading, they balance themselves nicely against each other, so harmony is maintained within the picture plane.