About Gordon Onslow Ford

Gordon Onslow Ford photo
Gordon Onslow Ford

Born in England in 1912 into a family of artists, Onslow Ford painted from an early age. He attended the Royal Navy College and developed a lifelong love of the sea. His early artwork is largely seascapes, and the notions of mapping, navigation, and voyage permeate his artwork throughout his career. Moved in Paris in 1937 to study painting with André Lhote, but quickly realized that it was too conservative. Met Chilean artist Matta, and together they joined the surrealist group under André Breton. With Breton, Tanguy, and others lived at Chemilieu, an abandoned chateau in Western France in the summer of 1939, sharing ideas and painting.

At the start of World War II, returned to England and then traveled to the United States, where he was invited to give lectures at the New School of Social Research in New York. These 1941 lectures on Surrealism proved to be a bridge between the surrealists and the young New York painters who would come to form the abstract expressionist movement. Met and married writer Jacqueline Johnson, and they moved to Mexico—also an important surrealist center—where they lived until 1947. Moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Onslow Ford would form a shortlived group—Dynaton—with Wolfgang Paalen and Lee Mullican. Embracing the new "possibilities" of art, this group signaled the end of Onslow Ford’s formal association with the surrealists, though he would paint using automatist techniques for the rest of his career. Died at his home in Inverness, California, in 2003.