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George Copeland Ault (1891-1948)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection
George Copeland Ault (1891-1948)

Pile Driver

George Copeland Ault (1891-1948)
Pile Driver
signed and dated 'G.C. Ault '29' (lower right)--signed and dated again and inscribed with title (on the reverse)
oil on canvasboard
14 x 11 in. (35.6 x 27.9 cm.)
Painted in 1929.
The artist.
Private collection, New York.
Zabriskie Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1982.
St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism, 1911-1947, November 20, 1987-June 5, 1988, pp. 48-49, 197, no. 2, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

George Ault began to cultivate his unique painting style around 1920, settling on architectural urban themes depicted with flat shapes, strong geometric patterns and unusual perspectives. In Pile Driver, he juxtaposes the titular industrial machine with a simplified depiction of residential buildings, uniting the composition with his Precisionist aesthetic and a limited palette of largely red, white and blue.

As seen in the present work, art critic Roberta Smith reflects, "One of Ault's primary subjects was the lonely everyday beauty of the world, caught in a moment of absolute stillness and ever so slightly abstracted. To capture this, he tried his hand at a number of realistic and quasi-realistic styles, not only Precisionism, but Surrealism and more traditional styles as well. Ault was relatively untouched by the storms of modernism. His paintings were almost invariably based on what he saw: the street, rooftop or harbor views of New York City, and the houses, barns and fields of Woodstock, where he spent the last decade of his life in growing poverty and isolation...But Ault's firm, unflamboyant way with a brush, his feeling for a building's austere, carefully dovetailed planes and, above all, his love of light as painting's form-giving, mood-setting force, sustained him at nearly every turn, in any direction he chose to move...He brought to his various scenes an idiosyncratic poetry and a sadness that was neither hidden nor indulged, but kept at an arm's length with a sense of dignity that, strangely enough, could almost be celebratory. In Ault's paintings, one feels that he loved life, even if life did not particularly love him." ("George Ault's Sad, Everyday Beauty in Stillness," The New York Times, April 29, 1988, p. 81)

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