Walton Ford (American, b.1960) is a painter who uses watercolors to create large-scale paintings influenced by the style of John James Audubon (French-American, 1785–1851) and other artists from the Naturalist Illustration Movement. Ford's paintings include jokes, symbols, and clues referenced from colonial literature; these works have a rich, accurate, and meticulous display of flora and fauna. Ford was born in Larchmont, NY, and began to draw with his brother, Enfield, when he was young. Later, Ford studied Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, RI, where he attained a BFA degree in 1982. He married Julie Jones, and they moved to New York in 1983.

Ford's paintings critique the history of politics, natural science, and industrialism using complex narratives. He pioneered the art of creating large-scale multi-layered etchings, which many people confuse for paintings because they are so meticulously done. Some of Ford's works include Pancha Tantra, painted in 2008, and I Don't Like to Look at Him, Jack, painted in 2011. Ford's paintings often integrate the usual and the surreal, expressing his own understanding of how we view animals, and exaggerating their human qualities. His paintings, which portray a descriptive style similar to 19th century naturalists such as Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893), can measure over 8 by 12 feet. Ford is characterized among modern day painters of the Naturalist Illustration Movement, and his paintings are known for their sharp critique of how humanity treats nature.

Ford has received various national honors and awards for his work in the Naturalist Illustration Movement, including the National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2006, Ford exhibited his first series of paintings in a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, in New York. Ford attributes his passion for drawing and painting to the inspiration he receives from the work of Giotto di Bondone (Italian, 1266–1337). Ford has collaborated with Taschen Books to produce his large-scale layout monograph Pancha Tantra.

In 2011, Ford held a midcareer retrospective traveling between the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum Für Gegenwart in Berlin, Germany, to the Albertina in Vienna, Austria, and then to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. Ford's work can be viewed at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, in Stamford, CT, and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, ME. After living in New York with his family for over a decade, Ford relocated his studio to Great Barrington, MA, where he currently lives with his family.

Timeline

1960
Born in Larchmont, New York
1982
BFA, Rhode Island School for the Arts, Providence, RI
1988
Recipient, Art Matters, Inc., Fellowship
1989
Recipient, New York Foundation for the Arts, Fellowship
1990
Recipient, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Grant
1991
Recipient, National Endowment for the Arts, Fellowship
1992
Recipient, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fellowship
European Honors Program, RISD, Rome, Italy
Lives and works in Great Barrington, MA

Exhibitions

2011
I don't like to look at him, Jack. It makes me think of that awful day on the island, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York (solo)
2010
Walton Ford, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (solo)
2009
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York (solo)
2008
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York (solo)
2008
Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities,‖ MOMA, New York
2007
Major Prints, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2006
Going Ape - Confronting Animals in Contemporary Art, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
2004
Political Nature, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
2004
Birdspace - A Post Audubon Artsits Aviary, Hundson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
2004
Natural Histories - Realism Revisited, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Phoenix, AZ
2000
Deja Vu: Reworking the Past, Katonah Museum of Art Katonah, NY
2000
Paul Kasmin Gallery New York, NY
2000
Bowdoin College Museum of Art Maine
1999
The Great Drawing Show 1550-1999, Kohn Turner Gallery Los Angeles, CA
1999
Summer Show:1999, Paul Kasmin Gallery New York, NY
1999
University Art Museum, California State University Long Beach, CA
1999
Collector's Gallery XXXIII, , The McNay Gallery San Antonio, TX
1998
Paul Kasmin Gallery New York, NY
1998
Aspen Art Musem Aspen, CO
1998
Wild Thing: Artists Views of the Animal World, John Berggruen Gallery San Francisco, CA
1997
"Walton Ford", Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art North Carolin
1996
Heroic Painting, S.E.C.C.A. North Carolina
1995
Next of Kin, List Visual Arts Center, MIT Cambridge, Mass
1994
Points of Interest, Points of Departure, John Berggruen Gallery San Francisco, CA
1994
History 101: The Re-Search for Family, Forum for Contemporary Art St.Louis, MO
1993
Living with Art: the Colection of Elyn & Saul Dennison, The Morris Museum Morristown, NJ
1993
Procrustean Beads, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery New York,NY
1993
The Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, OH
1993
Virginia Beach Center for the Arts Virginia Beach, VA
1992
The Landscape as a Stage, Locks Gallery Philadelphia, PA
1991
Bess Cutler Gallery Santa Monica, CA
1991
Bess Cutler Gallery New York, NY
1991
Books from A to B: Contemporary Artists' Books, Center for Arts Books Exhibition, Harper Collins New York, NY
1990
The Blood Remembers, Bess Cutler Gallery New York, NY
1989
American Pi(e), Bess Cutler Gallery New York, NY
1988
Un Regard Autre, Faride Cadot Gallery Paris, France