Milton Avery

Dunes and Sea II

Not on view



Oil and charcoal on canvas

Overall: 52 × 72in. (132.1 × 182.9 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of Sally Avery

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


Dunes and Sea II was inspired by the coastal landscape of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where Milton Avery spent four successive summers between 1957 and 1960, staying at an artists’ colony in Provincetown. Avery first produced a half-scale gouache-on-paper version of the image during the summer of 1960, and subsequently completed the oil painting upon his return to his New York City studio. To achieve the bold, luminous color and stark spatial juxtapositions that were the hallmarks of his late work, Avery applied the oil paint like watercolor, in multiple layers of thin, diluted wash; he then manipulated the paint within each shape on the canvas with the aid of a rag, which enabled him to create subtle modulations of tone. Dunes and Sea II was one of the increasingly large and reductive images, marked by a unity of form and color, which earned Avery the admiration of younger colleagues like Mark Rothko, and linked Avery’s representational style to the abstract canvases of the New York School and Color Field painters.