George Ault (1891-1941) Paintings and Drawings

March 09, 2004 - April 24, 2004

 


George Ault
Miss Whiting,  1923
oil on canvas
24 x 18 inches
Art in Review: George Ault
The New York Times
Ken Johnson
April 02, 2004
Fans of the American Modernist George Ault will be gratified by this quietly stirring show of paintings and drawings from his middle years, the 1920's and 30's.
After old-fashioned academic training in England, Ault cultivated a hard-edged, tautly composed simplicity, inspired by the Precisionism of two fellow Americans, Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. But Ault's painting is animated as much by feelings of isolation, grief and anxiety as by the pleasures of visual condensation.
The beautiful, plain painting of an orange farmhouse on a green lawn under a blue sky and wispy clouds is almost medieval in its pristine distillation. But with its impenetrable dark windows and raking shadows, it exudes a Hopperesque lonesomeness and a dreamy, de Chiricoesque mystery. Drawings and watercolors, made indoors and out in Woodstock, N.Y., where he lived for many years, suggest that Ault enjoyed the domestic and pastoral consolations of rural life. He had a particular fondness for dead trees; though exactingly outlined, they are softly modeled, so are like writhing, weirdly misshapen human bodies.

In the show's oddest painting, a woman wearing only short blue socks stands at the doorway of an empty room, facing away into darkness beyond, with an antique-style stone sculpture of a headless, armless female torso on the floor near her feet. Closer to Magritte than Hopper, this image from 1945 projects a distinctly cold and gloomy mood. You may not be surprised to learn that its famously unhappy, contentious and alcoholic creator took his own life three years later.

KEN JOHNSON