Artist biography

Gordon Onslow-Ford born 1912

Surrealist and abstract painter. Born in Wendover, England. Studied at the Royal Naval Colleges at Dartmouth and Greenwich. Then left the Royal Navy and spent 1936-9 in Paris as a painter. Largely self-taught in art, though made frequent visits to the studio of Léger. Met Matta in 1937 and was greatly impressed by his recent drawings. In Brittany with Matta in the summer of 1938 abandoned working from nature and started to make automatic drawings. Joined the Surrealist movement in 1938. Spent the spring and summer of 1939 at a château at Chemillieu (Ain) with Breton, Matta, Francés and Tanguy, his works including both compositions with biomorphic imagery and some abstract pictures made by pouring enamel paint (coulage). Lived in New York 1939-41. First one-man exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York, 1940. Gave a series of lectures at the New School for Social Research 1940-1 expounding the principles of automatism; these lectures had influence on the development of Abstract Expressionism. Included in the exhibition First Papers of Surrealism in New York 1942. Lived 1941-7 in an isolated village in Mexico, where he was influenced by the art of the Tarascon Indians and where he gradually turned away from Surrealism. Friendship with Wolfgang Paalen, who was developing along similar lines. Settled in California 1947 and now lives at Inverness, California.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.575