Fruit Bowl on Red Oilcloth is a quintessential example of George Copeland Ault’s Precisionist oeuvre. A loosely affiliated group of artists who shared a common aesthetic, the Precisionists created crisp works sharply defined with geometric forms and flat planes. In addition to depicting the architecture of New York City, and the barns and buildings in Woodstock, New York, Ault occasionally painted exquisite still-life scenes with the same level of orderliness. In Fruit Bowl on Red Oilcloth, Ault rejects the superfluous in favor of line, form and color to depict an intimate composition in a smooth, Precisionist aesthetic.
While Ault worked in a representational manner, the renowned critic Clement Greenberg considered the artist’s restrained yet deeply emotive compositions as key forerunners to the Abstract Expressionist movement. Indeed, Greenberg cited the present work when praising the 1950 Ault retrospective at Milch Galleries, writing, “I must say that I was struck chiefly by the waterfall painting, by the 1930 still life of apples, pears and oranges with a blue bottle, and to a lesser extent by the early nudes… Surely, he painted more still lifes like the 1930 one [Fruit Bowl on Red Oilcloth]… All in all, I would say that this representation of thirty years of work is… as valid a record as could be found on how honest and talented American painters kept searching doggedly for a wide vein outside French painting that would permit them to express themselves with their own spontaneity” (C. Greenberg letter to L. Ault, February 19, 1950, Archives of American Art, George Ault Papers, reel D247, frame 613).