George Ault, January Full Moon (1941)
The Cleveland, Ohio born painter George Ault (October 11, 1891-December 30, 1948) seemed to have a most excruciating life — born into wealth, with education in London — things began to unravel for the artist after the death of his mother in a mental institution, then each of his three brothers took their lives, two due to personal losses in the stock market crash of 1929. His father gone to cancer, George Ault was without family, penniless, brushes in hand.
By now Ault would be back from Europe living between New Jersey or New York (Woodstock) where he would spend the rest of a reclusive life painting (beautifully), struggling and drinking. His alcoholism became most severe as he almost blinded himself drinking poisonous bathtub gin. His erratic and strange behavior began to keep artist and dealer friends away.
In Woodstock he would turn out many of the paintings that made his reputation, none better than "January Full Moon" with its breath taking face of isolation. To view a clear representation of this painting will send a shiver up your spine, the snow shadows of the moonlight are that clear.
The painter's hardworking second wife Louise Jonas, and her income, kept the couple's heads temporarily above water while living a spartan existence in a tiny Woodstock rental without electricity or indoor plumbing. They would live there ten years, the artist soaked in his obsessive behavior of requiring order in all facets of life. His widow writes, Both studio and house needed to be perfectly clean before he could sit down at his easel. Ault would do the chores himself, Louise recalled, shining the small house each morning to its permanent brilliance before starting to paint. Outside, Ault knelt with grass-shears and trimmed on either side of the path, close and neatly, cutting back the wildness to leave a park-like strip.
Perhaps his finest paintings show his great eye for lighting — night time landscapes and buildings and its light of darkness — Bright Lights at Russell's Corners is a painting to look for.
Whether he took his own life or not, he was known for his night life drinking binges. Some days after Christmas in 1948, broke, no one calling for his paintings, George Ault was found drowned in a Woodstock creek.