seated figure in on shore in center foreground pulling back on a line with fish on either side of him, three gulls overhead, calm water in central image, cloudless sky beyond; man; landscape; water; bird
Avery and his wife spent much of their time on the North Atlantic coast—in Gloucester, on Cape Ann and on the Gaspé Peninsula. Avery painted Surf Fisherman, one of his many seascapes, after recovering from a heart attack the previous year. When he took up painting again, his new works, including this one, were increasingly generalized and painted in more muted tones.
One of America’s foremost colorists, Avery pared away extraneous details and flattened out the image to reveal the abstracted essence of the subject. Simplified forms of birds and fish surround the central figure of the fisherman, against a background of three broad bands of color representing sky, ocean and sand. With the day’s catch at his feet and seagulls wheeling above his head, the fisherman leans backward, as though reeling in a fish. The rod and line are all but invisible; the eye completes them, cued by the fisherman’s posture and the excitement of the gulls.