Gallery Talk: Alex Nemerov

Gallery Talk by Smithsonian curator Alex Nemerov, “ To Make a World: George Ault, Woodstock, and 1940s America.” 

Saturday, September 24, 4pm

$10 / $5 to WAAM members

The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM) presents a lecture on Saturday, September 24 at 4 pm entitled “ To Make a World: George Ault, Woodstock, and 1940s America” by Alexander Nemerov,  Vincent Scully Professor of the History of Art at Yale University and the curator of the recent Smithsonian exhibition on Ault. The talk is presented with funding from the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation. The talk is $10 or $5 to current WAAM members and is presented with support from the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation.

The life of George Ault (1891-1948) is the tragic (while intriguing) story of an artist driven to alcoholism and depression after a series of personal catastrophes as well as financial devastation in the 1920s and 30s.  In 1937, Ault and his future wife Louise moved to Woodstock, New York and remained there until his death eleven years later.  At his home in the quiet rural town, Ault found respite and order in a life devoted to household chores, yard work, and the meticulous execution of his paintings. The artist discovered particular inspiration in an intersection just a few hundred yards from Woodstock’s Village Green, a junction known as Russell’s Corners, which he portrayed in several major paintings. Curator and author Nemerov writes of the Ault painting Black Night, Russell’s Corners (1943) in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Elements of disquiet are there, certainly:  some windows of the red barn at left tilt strangely; the angled dead tree counters the straightness of the telephone poles; and the telephone wires disappear into the black night that gives the painting its title. But the sense of geometry wrested from blankness and emptiness remains. Ault “painted to make order out of chaos,” his friend John Ruggles recalled in 1949. “The words of A. E. Housman, ‘I, a stranger and afraid, in a world I never made,’ touched him acutely.

Late November in the Catskills (1940) from the WAAM Permanent Collection is part of the exhibition To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America, which ended this month at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The WAAM Permanent Collection includes several paintings by Ault in its collection, including Jane Street Corner, Hudson (a sister painting to an oil in the Whitney Museum of American Art), a tonalist landscape from 1911 painted in France where the young artist studied, and a number of other oils and drawings which provide an excellent overview of the artist’s career.  The WAAM also published a catalogue and organized an exhibition in 2001 entitled George Ault, The Woodstock Years, which was curated by Eila Kokkinen.

The Smithsonian exhibition travels to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO (October 15, 2011– January 8, 2012) and to the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA (February 18, 2012–April 16, 2012).  The exhibition centers on five paintings Ault made between 1943 and 1948 depicting the crossroads of Russell’s Corners in Woodstock.  The additional twenty-two artists represented in the exhibition include Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth.

Alexander Nemerov teaches and writes about American visual culture from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, focusing on painting, sculpture, photography, and film. In addition to the Ault catalogue, he is also the author of Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War, published in 2010, about a single night’s performance of Macbeth attended by Abraham Lincoln in Washington in 1863. He is the author of a book on film—Icons of Grief: Val Lewton’s Home Front Pictures (2005)—and two books on painting, The Body of Raphaelle Peale: Still Life and Selfhood, 1812-1824 (2001), and Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America (1995). In 2011-12 he is teaching a graduate seminar at Yale on the 1930s in America, and an introductory survey of the history of Western art from the Renaissance to the present.

For details about these and other events and a list of all exhibitions, explore our website at or call 845 679-2940. The Woodstock Artists Association & Museum is located at 28 Tinker Street in the heart of Woodstock, New York and is open on Friday and Saturday from 12 – 6 pm and Sunday, Monday, Thursday 12 – 5 pm. The WAAM is a not-for-profit membership organization featuring a landmark collection of regional art, contemporary artist galleries, and a dynamic education program.  Exhibition and programs are supported by the WAAM Founders Circle, other individual supporters and membership.

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