George Ault (1891 - December 30, 1948) was an American painter. He was loosely grouped with the Precisionist movement and was also influenced by Cubism and Surrealism.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent his youth in London, England, where he studied at the Slade School of Art and St. John's Wood School of Art. Returning to the United States in 1911, he spent the rest of his life in New York and New Jersey. His personal life was troubled; he became alcoholic in the 1920s after the death of his mother in a mental institution, and the suicides of his three brothers. In 1937, Ault moved to Woodstock, New York and tried to put his difficulties in the past. Depending on his wife for income, he created some of his finest paintings during this time, but had difficulty selling them. He committed suicide in Woodstock at the end of 1948. In his lifetime, his works were displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Addison Gallery of American Art (Andover, Massachusetts), among others.
Ault worked in oil, watercolor, and pencil. He is often grouped with Precisionist painters such as Charles Sheeler and Ralston Crawford because of his unadorned representations of architecture and urban landscapes. However, the idealist and Futurist aspects of Precisionism are not so apparent in his work - in fact, he once referred to skyscrapers as the "tombstones of capitalism". He employed flat shapes and portrayed the underlying geometric patterns of the manmade structures that found a place on his canvases, indicating the influence of Cubism and Realism. An analytical painter, he was especially noted for his ability to realistically portray the effect of light - especially the light of darkness - for he commonly painted nighttime scenes. Of his later paintings, such as January, Full Moon; Black Night; August Night; and Bright Light at Russell's Corners, The New York Times (December 16, 1973) wrote:
The setting is the same in each case - a solitary streetlight, the same bend in the road, the same collection of barns and sheds - but seen from different vantage points. In them, Ault has summoned up the poetry of darkness in an unforgettable way - the implacable solitude and strangeness that night bestows upon once-familiar forms and places.