LAMA BLOG

Gordon Onslow Ford: Cosmic Landscapes

February 5, 2016

The British-born painter Gordon Onslow Ford (1912–2003) was the youngest and last surviving member of the original Surrealist artistic group, led by the poet André Breton, that convened in the salons and cafés of Paris in the 1920s and Thirties and included such members as Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Tanguy, Jean Arp, and Salvador Dalí. Onslow Ford articulated an influential theory and practice of painting based on the notion of “automatism,” spontaneous creativity unfettered by rational thought. LAMA will offer seven of his works on February 21, 2016.

lot 77, gordon onslow ford,  dancing still
Lot 77, Gordon Onslow Ford, Dancing Still (1991)
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

His paintings–marked by dense, layered patterns, strong lines, biomorphic forms, and glowing spaces manifest a visionary astral mindscape. Taking his inspiration more from Jung than Freud, Onslow Ford rejected the dream-based work of Dalí and others in favor of an approach that sought to more deeply probe the mind for archetypal, abstract signifiers of cosmic consciousness. Towards that end, he invented techniques such as one he called “coulage,” in which he poured paint directly on the canvas, moving it to form random patterns. In early 1941, Onslow Ford delivered a series of lectures on Surrealism in New York that were attended by Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and other Abstract Expressionist painters. It has been speculated that the artists were strongly influenced by Onslow Ford’s “coulage” method.

Lot 75, Gordon Onslow Ford, The Desert's Dazzling Furniture (1943)
Lot 75, Gordon Onslow Ford, The Desert’s Dazzling Furniture (1943)
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

In 1947–following service in the Royal Navy during World War II–Onslow Ford moved to Northern California. For a time he made his studio in a disused ferryboat in Sausalito–a place that became a gathering spot for creative types including sculptor Ruth Asawa and the writer Henry Miller. He later settled down to work and live on the coast in western Marin County. He began to practice Buddhism and to study Japanese calligraphy with a Zen master. For several years starting in the latter 1950s–in an effort to break down his art to its fundamentals, a pure and direct expression of conscious energy unaltered by worldly associations–Onslow Ford painted only in black and white. Universal Animal (1961–1962) was the first painting in which he introduced color back into his work. Thereafter, luminous hues were again central to Onslow Ford’s restless, probing, and spiritually questing paintings–an art which sought, as he wrote, “to bring wonder into the world.”

Lot 76, Gordon Onslow Ford, Heaven is Earth (1997)
Lot 76, Gordon Onslow Ford, Heaven Is Earth (1997)
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Onslow Ford, Gordon. Painting in the Instant. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1964. Print. Selz, Peter. “Spontaneous Apparitions: The Work of Gordon Onslow Ford.” <e,>Gordon Onslow Ford: Centennial Celebration. San Francisco: Weinstein Gallery, 2013. Print. Bogzaran, Fariba. “From Landscape to Inscape–Egypt and Gordon Onslow Ford.” Dada/Surrealism 19 (2013). Web. 09 Jan. 2016. “Guggenheim.” Collection Online. N.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.

Lot Information:

Lot 75
Gordon Onslow Ford
The Desert’s Dazzling Furniture
1943
Gouache, watercolor, and pastel on paper
Dated “31-12-43” lower center; retains partial San Francisco Museum of Art exhibition label verso; bears the inscription in graphite “‘the desert’s dazzling furniture’ watercolor 1943 GOF” frame verso
Sheet (vis.): 15.125″ x 19.625″; Frame: 22.75″ x 27.25″
Provenance: Deaccessioned from the San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California;
The Estate of Robert Anthoine
Exhibited: “Towards a New Subject in Painting,” San Francisco Museum of Art, 1948
Estimate: $5,000 – $7,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 76
Gordon Onslow Ford
Heaven Is Earth
1997
Acrylic on paper mounted to canvas
Dated “12-97″ lower center; signed, titled, and dated verso
Composition: 48.5″ x 36.75″; Canvas: 50″ x 38″; Frame: 51″ x 39”
Provenance: The Estate of Robert Anthoine (acquired directly from the artist)
Illustrated: Once Upon a Time: The O World. G. Onslow Ford. 1999. 58.
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 77
Gordon Onslow Ford
Dancing Still
1991
Acrylic on canvas
Dated “8.91” lower right; signed, titled, and dated verso
Canvas: 59″ x 76″; Frame: 60″ x 77″
Provenance: The Estate of Robert Anthoine (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $20,000 – $30,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 78
Gordon Onslow Ford
Abstraction in Yellow
1964
Gouache on paper
Dated in graphite “4 – 64″ lower center edge of sheet
Sheet: 22.125″ x 30″; Frame: 30.25″ x 37.5”
Provenance: The Estate of Robert Anthoine (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 79
Gordon Onslow Ford
Letter to Gerald Nordland
March 27, 1972
Ink and felt-tip marker on paper
Signed lower center
Sheet: 17.75″ x 13.5″; Mat: 23.5″ x 19″
Provenance: Gerald Nordland, Chicago, Illinois (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 80
Gordon Onslow Ford
Abstraction in Black and White
c. 1960
Oil on paper
Retains the Whitney Museum of American Art partial exhibition label verso; retains The American Federation of Arts exhibition label and Rose Rabow Galleries label verso
Sheet (vis.): 24″ x 19″; Frame: 33.25″ x 27″
Provenance: The Estate of Robert Anthoine (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 81
Gordon Onslow Ford
Lunar Wind
1962
Parles paint on canvas
Inscribed verso “Lunar Wind 2.62/Parles paint/R192 INN, IMB/91-41 CH”
Canvas: 48.5″ x 38″; Frame: 48″ x 39″
Provenance: The Estate of Robert Anthoine (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

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