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Ralph Hillyer Avery
American
(1907 – 1976)

Ralph Hillyer Avery
Charcoal Alley, watercolor and gouache on paper
19.5" x 28.5" (image), 27" x 36" (with frame), signed lower left

Ralph Hillyer Avery was born in Savannah, Georgia, but moved to Rochester, New York in the early 1920s to study at Rochester Institute of Technology (Mechanics Institute), where he graduated in 1928 and where he would spend nearly one-quarter century as a teacher. Avery studied with Charles Woodbury, Harry Leith-Ross, and Carl Peters, and in the early 30’s he studied at the Louis C. Tiffany Foundation in Oyster Bay, New York. The artist also acknowledged that he was greatly influenced by Japanese watercolors.

Avery became known primarily as a watercolorist and an illustrator. His gray watercolor washes, dotted with brilliant spots of color, typified the overcast Rochester climate, and his work, taken as a whole, forms a fairly comprehensive documentation of downtown Rochester at mid-century. His illustrations appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, and his work appeared on the cover of Reader’s Digest no fewer than fourteen times. Avery’s work was extremely popular in his lifetime, prints of his paintings being used as calendars, turned into cards, and handed out to patrons by banks and corporations. By the time of his death in 1976, Avery had become Rochester’s most popular and readily identifiable artist.

The artist served as President of the Rochester Art Club from 1935 to 1938. He was elected to membership in the American Watercolor Society and into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician. Avery’s work can be found in the Memorial Art Gallery (Rochester), the Newark Public Library, the Rochester Public Library, and the Bevier Collection of the Rochester Institute of Rochester.


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