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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)

Universal Symphony

Details
George Copeland Ault (1891-1948)
Universal Symphony
signed and dated 'G.C. Ault '47' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 60.9 cm.)
Painted in 1947.
Provenance
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Zabriskie Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1978.
Literature
Archives of American Art, George Ault Papers, roll D247, frames 327, 444, 446-47, 455, 461, 491, 874.
M. Lowengrund, "Death of Ault," Art Digest, vol. 23, February 1, 1949, p. 25.
M. Lowengrund, "George Ault 1891-1948," Art Digest, vol. 23, September 15, 1949, p. 20.
"George Ault Memorial Exhibition," Art News, vol. 48, February 1950, p. 50.
C. Burrows, "Art Exhibits: Ault, Sepesky," New York Herald Tribune, February 5, 1950.
D. Adlow, "American Art on Display," Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 1950.
L. Ault, Artist in Woodstock, George Ault: The Independent Years, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1978, pp. 170-71, 175.
K. Tsujimoto, Images of America: Precisionist Painting and Modern Photography, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco, California, 1982, p. 180.
S. Lubowsky, George Ault, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1988, pp. 42-43, fig. 41, illustrated.
R.S. Harnsberger, Ten Precisionist Artists, Westport, Connecticut, 1992, p. 42.
R. Smith, "Filling in the Many Gaps in American Surrealism," The New York Times, March 31, 2005, p. E5, illustrated.
D. Ngo, ed., Art + Architecture: The Ebsworth Collection + Residence, San Francisco, 2006, n.p.
Exhibited
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, Museum of Fine Arts, Painting in the United States, 1948, October 14-December 12, 1948, no. 260.
Woodstock, New York, Woodstock Art Gallery, George Ault Memorial Exhibition, September 9-23, 1949, no. 41.
New York, Milch Galleries, George Ault Memorial Exhibition, January 30-February 18, 1950, no. 18.
New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Art Gallery, Surrealism and American Art, 1931-1947, March 6-April 24, 1977, p. 67, no. 1, illustrated.
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. 50-51, 197, no. 3, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, March 5-November 12, 2000, pp. 43-45, no. 2, illustrated.
New York, National Academy of Design; Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum, Surrealism USA, February 17-September 25, 2005, p. 161, no. 118.
Washington, D.C., Smithsonian American Art Museum; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Athens, Georgia, Georgia Museum of Art, To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America, March 11, 2011-April 16, 2012, pp. 87-90, 120, no. 55, illustrated.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Lot Essay

One of George Ault's most important Surrealist landscapes, Universal Symphony evokes the artist's deep spiritual reaction to time spent alone in nature. Ault often walked at night near his home in Woodstock, New York, and this poetic winter nocturne emotionally captures his fascinating, haunting experience in the desolate wilderness after dark. The central figure, perhaps representing Ault himself, has more specific and unusual origins in the artist's close contemplation of Leonardo Da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1510, Museé du Louvre, Paris, France). The artist's wife Louise explained, "...one morning while standing in the studio in front of a favorite reproduction hanging on the wall, Da Vinci's 'Virgin and Child with St. Anne,' he traced his forefinger lightly over the lower half, the arrangement of knees and legs with drapery--the movement. It was the movement of his form. 'I've been looking at it so long,' he explained. Behind the central form on his canvas were cloud shapes, a bland full moon, and blue horizon mountains. There was no water, yet what was that central form if not a spirit, in harmony with the universe, existing in a cool, quiet, mystically luminous subterranean world?" (Artist in Woodstock, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1978, p. 171)

Painted in 1947, Universal Symphony was notably the only work chosen by Louise to hang during Ault's memorial service following his death the next year. She explained, "George frequently quoted the proverb that 'Art should be seen with the eyes and not the mouth.' Therefore I will not discuss the picture and reason for choosing it beyond saying that to me its high spirituality makes it deeply appropriate. More than ever lately, as my husband's physical vitality was less, he seemed closer to the 'universe.' Although I am carrying on alone in our tiny studio dwelling...it is not the personal possessions that surround me but the moon last night, the sunrise this morning, and the sound of the wind today in the mountain pines that give me a close sense of him." (Louis Ault letter to Homer Saint-Gaudens, January 10, 1949, Archives of American Art, George Ault Papers)

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