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The Cover
May 23/30, 2012

The White Wave

JAMA. 2012;307(20):2129. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.2999

Waves are the fluid transmitters of the energy of the sea. Milton Avery's (1885-1965) The White Wave (cover) concentrates the sea's power to create, sustain, and destroy life in its simplest form. In the painting an outsized wave, many times greater in mass than the swells propelling it, plunges toward the surface in a battle of gravity and tide. This seascape has the spontaneity of a sketch in oil paint, but Avery was not the sort of mid-20th-century painter who made things up as he went along. Many of Avery's contemporaries did paint without making preparatory drawings, seeking a sense of immediacy. Their sketches in oil, known as “action” paintings, were described as art in performance, but Avery took a more traditional approach. He painted from nature, making drawings of his observations, and then drawing them over again to refine and simplify. After reducing his sketches to elemental forms, he painted them in watercolor on a larger surface and finally transferred them to canvas in oil.

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