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Sally with Skull

American Art

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Sally with Skull

Artwork Details


Milton Avery
American, 1885–1965




Oil on canvas

Accession #



33 x 26 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Level 3, Gallery 301


Completed upon Avery’s return from a summer in Mexico, Sally with Skull is a portrait of the artist’s wife conspicuously seated next to a blooming plant and a human skull. Avery’s interest in Mexican culture began in 1940 after the exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art debuted at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Sally with Skull reflects Avery’s continued fascination with Mexico’s native art traditions and penchant for saturated color. The inclusion of a skull in this painting recalls the centuries-old tradition of memento mori—a reminder of human mortality—and starkly contrasts with the thriving plant depicted in full bloom.


Purchase with funds from Alfred Austell Thornton in memory of Leila Austell Thornton and Albert Edward Thornton, Sr., and Sarah Miller Venable and William Hoyt Venable and the Margaret and Terry Stent Endowment for the Acquisition of American Art