George Copeland Ault

Born in Cleveland, OH, and spent much of his youth in London, England, where his father was engaged in ink manufacturing. He studied at the Slade School of Art and St. John's Wood School of Art (where his painting style was described as an Anglicized version of Impressionism).

In 1911 he returned to the US where he would spend the rest of his life in New York and New Jersey. He began to paint New York night scenes and architectural subjects in a spare, modernist style (similar to those of Joseph Pennell). He became interested in night effects, a major theme in many of his later works. His shift towards a modern painting style caused his father (an academic painter) to stop supporting him. His financial and personal life became troubled; he became alcoholic during the 1920s, after the death of his mother in a mental institution, and the suicides of his three brothers.

By the mid-1920s, personal problems began to interfere with Ault's artistic progress. The home in which he had grown up was emotionally troubled; his mother died in a mental institution and three of his brothers committed suicide. By the time of his father's death in 1929, the family fortune was largely dissipated. These unfortunate circumstances may explain the increasing turbulence and unhappiness of Ault's personal life. Whatever the exact cause, during the 1920s, Ault grew neurotic and reclusive. He developed a severe case of alcoholism, almost blinding himself drinking poisonous bathtub gin. His behavior became so strange that his artist and dealer friends began to avoid him.

...In the winter of 1948, he apparently committed suicide by drowning but exact cause is uncertain because it could have been accidental. He was on one of his reputed late night drinking binges and while returning home on foot slipped on the icy banks of Woodstock Creek which at the time was treacherously overflowing. In his lifetime, his works....
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


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