To Make a (Metaphysical) World: The "Return to Order" in George Ault's Late Paintings
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This thesis examines the paintings of American artist George Ault from the late 1930s until his death in 1948. Questioning earlier appraisals of these images as surrealist, it argues that they are better aligned with the tenets of the Italian metaphysical school and its founding artist, Giorgio de Chirico. Unlike the surrealists, de Chirico espoused a nationalist point of view in his paintings, a tendency that is replicated in Ault's late works. The thesis considers two groups of images: the first is Ault's paintings of the female nude, which repeat the classical allusions found in the paintings of de Chirico. The second is images of Woodstock, New York, in which Ault applies the methodology of the metaphysical school to American subjects, creating nostalgic, imagined views of nineteenth-century rural New York. The conclusion considers how Ault's late paintings complicate scholarly narratives of surrealism's reception in American art before World War II.