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The Cover
July 2, 2003

Sea Grasses and Blue Sea

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(1):13. doi:10.1001/jama.290.1.13

Because of heavy family responsibilities, the American painter Milton Avery (1885-1965) began his formal art training late. Born in upstate New York, where his father was a tanner, the family moved to East Hartford, Connecticut, just as Milton was entering his teens. At 16 he went to work in a factory that made screws; later, as the household grew, he worked as a latheman and as a mechanic.

After the deaths of his father, a brother, and his sister's husband, he became responsible for nine dependent women and children. But if factory work provided the household's livelihood, it was art that provided Milton his: painting was his means of existence, as necessary to life as breath. He sandwiched art training at the School of the Art Society of Hartford into a schedule that included the night shift at an insurance claims company in Hartford. In time, he was able to spend summers at Gloucester, Massachusetts, painting, and it was there that he met and married fellow artist Sally Michel. In 1926, with Avery now 40 and his wife still in her 20s, the couple moved to New York City. It was agreed that Sally would be the breadwinner, Milton the painter. It was a successful arrangement that lasted until Avery's death in 1965. The couple's only child, March, was born in 1932.