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Nelson Atkins Museum Presents To Make a World. George Ault and 1940s America

The Nelson-Atkins Museum presents To Make a World. George Ault and 1940s America, on view October 15, 2011—January 8, 2012.

During the turbulent 1940s, George Ault (1891-1948) created precise yet eerie pictures that have come to be seen as some of the most original paintings made in America in those years. The beautiful geometries of Ault’s paintings make personal worlds of clarity and composure to offset a real world he felt was in crisis.

To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America recreates a moment when the country was rendered fragile by the Great Depression and made anxious by World War II. Although much has been written about the glorious triumph of the war, memories of the anxious mood of life on the home front—a place far from the battlefields and yet profoundly at risk—have dimmed. To Make a World sheds light on these memories and makes them newly relevant today.

The first major exhibition of Ault’s art in more than 20 years, To Make a World includes paintings, drawings, and prints by Ault and his like-minded contemporaries. The additional 22 artists represented in this exhibition include some as celebrated as Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, while others such as Edward Biberman and Dede Plummer are less widely known. Taken together, their art reveals an aesthetic vein running through 1940s American art not previously explored.

Alexander Nemerov, the Vincent Scully Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, curated the exhibition organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

To Make a World: George Ault’s 1940s America is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from Delores and John W. Beck, James F. Dicke II, Barney A. Ebsworth, Tania and Tom Evans, and Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins, Barney A. Ebsworth, Tania and Tom Evans, Kara and Wayne Fingerman, Furthermore, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation, Joffa and Bill Kerr, Robert S. and Grayce B. Kerr Foundation, John and Gail Liebes Trust, Paula and Peter Lunder, Betty and Whitney MacMillan, Margery and Edgar Masinter, Oriana McKinnon, Susan Reed Moseley, and Betty and Lloyd Schermer. Additional funding is provided through the museum’s William R. Kenan, Jr. Endowment Fund and Gene Davis Memorial Fund. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

Image: George Ault, American, (1891-1948). Bright Light at Russell’s Corners (detail), 1946. Oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Lawrence.

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