Alfonso Ossorio

Filipino/American , 1916 - 1990

Alfonso Ossorio was born in 1916 on the Island of Luzon in Manilla in the Phillipines. In 1926, accompanied by his mother and two brothers, Ossorio traveled to England. He attended the Prior Park Christian Bros. School in Bath and St. Richard’s School in Malvern, Worcestershire. Later, in the United States, he attended Portsmouth Priory in Providence, Rhode Island and in 1933 he was naturalized as an American citizen.

In 1934, Ossorio’s first wood engravings were published privately for W.W. Appleton’s “Dark Journey and Other Verses”. He attended Harvard University in 1934, where he studied with Wilhelm Köhler and Edward Waldo Forbes and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. He spent a summer at St. Dominic’s Guild in Sussex, England at the workshop of wood engraver, Eric Gill.

In 1936, Ossorio’s first original work, “Poems and Wood Engravings”, was published, printed by hand by E. Walters in London. The following year, Ossario illustrated covers for editions of “New Directions” and “Les Illuminations”, by Arthur Rimbuad. In 1944, he executed medical illustrations for the U.S. Army at Camp Ellis, but privately, he was creating Surrealist influenced works. After being discharged from the Army in 1947, Ossario spent a winter in Palm Springs with his brother. The next winter, he spent time at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. During 1950, he spent ten months in Negros Occidental in the Phillipines, doing the mural, “The Angry Christ” for the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker. He also completed several hundred ink, wax and watercolor works on paper.

Ossorio participated in countless exhibitions, including “The International Art of a New Era” at the Osaka International Festival in 1958, “The Art of Assemblage” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1961, “Documenta III” in Kassel, Germany in 1964, “Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage” at the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1968 and “Thirty Years of American Art: 1945075” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1977.

With a Whitney Museum Fellowship in 1984, Ossorio published intaglio prints in the form of a book with poems by Dr. Lewis Thomas, called “Bioscapes” and from 1984 to 1990 he made intaglio and monoprints in collaboration with Hudson River Press. Hospitalized by heart failure in 1988 Ossorio worked on a series of drawings in the hospital called “Recovery Drawings”. Two years later, he died of a ruptured aneurysm.
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