This work by George Ault shows a desert landscape under a bright blue sky

George Copeland Ault

American, 1891–1948

Moonlit Desert, 1941

Oil on canvas

20 x 28 inches

Signed and dated, lower left

George Copeland Ault was born into a prosperous Cleveland family, and spent his formative years in London. Ault first painted in academic styles, and did not discover Modernism until he returned to the United States. By 1922, he committed himself to his painting career and settled in New York. Ault embraced the Precisionist style that he learned of through the works of Charles Sheeler and Ralston Crawford. His paintings of cityscapes were reduced into basic shapes with flat areas of color, oftentimes with elements of Surrealism. Many of his cityscapes were set at night, with the dramatic geometrical clarity of the buildings set against the darkened skies. Night scenes were a recurring subject in Ault’s career, but took on a more serious note after he moved to Woodstock in 1937.

Nocturnal desert scenes, like the present work, Moonlit Desert, allowed Ault to express Surrealism more fully. In the painting, the spare and haunting landscape of angular rock formations dotting the sandy desert is almost entirely dominated by the unusual cloud formations above. Ault was fascinated by clouds and used similar patterns and formations in several paintings and drawings from this period.

This work by George Ault shows a desert landscape under a bright blue sky