GEORGE COPELAND AULT (1891–1948)
Morning in Brooklyn, 1929
Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.
Signed, dated, and inscribed (at lower right): G. C. Ault ’29
EX COLL.: the artist; James C. Boudreau, New York; Howard Young, New York; private collection until 2019
Morning in Booklyn communicates, in common with other Ault canvases, a sense of pervasive loneliness in the midst of the densely populated city. Windows are blank. Shopfronts stand empty. There is evidence of the presence of people, but no people. While this certainly may have been a reflection of Ault’s increasing social isolation, it also dipped into a sense of alienation that was shared by other artists, notably Edward Hopper (1882–1967). Though Hopper was older than Ault, he struggled for years until his breakthrough with oil paintings in the same decade that Ault found success—the 1920s. Hopper’s explorations of urban loneliness and alienation are parallel creations with Ault’s canvases. Fittingly, the Whitney Museum of American Art, home to Hopper’s famous Early Sunday Morning (1930), a vision of Seventh Avenue at Fifteenth Street, also owns Ault’s Hudson Street (1932), both streetscapes near the artists’ homes in Greenwich Village, both without any visible human presence.
Morning in Brooklyn has a distinguished provenance. It’s first owner, James C. Boudreau, was the very influential Director of the School of Fine and Applied Arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1929 until 1956. His endorsement of Ault, evidenced by ownership of this work, constituted an important contemporary affirmation of high critical regard.