Sally Michel Avery, artist, illustrator and widow of the painter Milton Avery, died in 2003. She was born in Brooklyn in 1902 and studied painting at the Art Students League in New York. She met her husband in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1924 when he was thirty-nine and living in Hartford. He moved to New York to be with her, and they married in 1926.
For the next few decades Mrs. Avery worked as a freelance illustrator, enabling her husband to paint full time, attend the Art Students League and find his mature style. During the 1940's and 50's, she worked as an illustrator for You and Your Child, which was then a column in The New York Times Magazine. The couple often worked side by side in the living room of their top-floor apartment at 294 West 11th Street and shared painting fellowships to Yaddo in 1956 and the MacDowell Colony in 1957. Milton Avery died in 1960, at age seventy-five.
Mrs. Avery, who always exhibited as Sally Michel, had her only solo show in New York at the Waverly Gallery in 1981. Solo retrospectives of her paintings were held in 1987 at the University of Iowa Museum of Art and in 1990 at the Fresno Art Museum in California. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Fresno Art Museum and the Israel Museum.
Upon her death in 2003 an exhibition of her work was held at the Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery in New York. The Knoedler Gallery also had a show of the Avery's portraits of each other, in April of that year.