Gordon Onslow Ford, a painter who was one of the last Parisian Surrealists, died on Nov. 9 at his home in Inverness, Calif. He was 90.
In Paris in the late 1930's, Mr. Ford was inspired by the abstract approaches to Surrealist painting taken by artists like Joan Miró and Andre Masson. For more than six decades he continued to make paintings in which loopy lines, organic shapes and glowing spaces created the impression of visionary mindscapes. With their layered patterns and luminous colors, his canvases had a cheerful decorative appeal and a spiritual optimism informed by Carl Jung's psychology, Zen Buddhism and the artist's own metaphysical and aesthetic theories.
Gordon Onslow Ford was born in Wendover, England, on Dec. 26, 1912. He attended the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth and served as an officer in the British Navy until 1937, when he resigned to pursue a career in art. In Paris he met Roberto Matta, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and other Surrealists whose interests he shared. In 1938 he became an official member of the Surrealist group, which was founded and led by the poet Andre Breton.
In 1941 an expatriate group in New York invited Mr. Ford, who had returned to Britain at the outset of World War II, to present a series of lectures on Surrealism at the New School for Social Research, now the New School University. (He was one of the few English-speaking Surrealists.) He also organized four exhibitions of Surrealist art. The lectures and exhibitions influenced Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and others who would go on to create Abstract Expressionism.
In New York Mr. Ford met and married Jacqueline Johnson, an American writer. The couple lived in Central Mexico in the remote village
Fariba Bogzaran, 2001
Gordon Onslow Ford
of Erongaricuaro for six years and then, in 1947, moved to San Francisco. There Mr. Ford and the painter Jean Varda bought an old ferry, the Vallejo, to use for studios. The Vallejo became a gathering place for artists, writers, beatniks, hippies and other social adventurers.
Eventually Mr. Ford turned his half of the boat over to his friend Alan Watts, the Buddhist scholar, and moved to Inverness, where in 1957 he and his wife had bought 300 acres of forest.
Mr. Ford had his first retrospective in 1948 at what is now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and another at the Oakland Museum of California in 1978. His paintings are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum, the Tate Britain in London and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Ms. Johnson died in 1978. Mr. Ford is survived by a sister, Elisabeth Onslow Ford Rouslin of Asheville, N.C.