Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-1990

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Painter, sculptor; New York, N.Y. Died 1990.

From the description of Alfonso Ossorio papers, 1949-1981. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122647958

Alfonso Ossorio (1916-1990) was an American artist who was born in the Philippines, attended boarding schools in England, and came to the United States to study at the Portsmouth Priory School, Rhode Island, and then at Harvard University. Ossorio is best known as for his illustrations and abstract sculpture.

From the description of Wood engravings, watercolors, and photographs of sculptures, 1932-1978. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612814211

Painter; Wainscott, N.Y.; d. 1990.

From the description of Alfonso Ossorio interview, 1968 Nov. 19 [sound recording]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81263045

Alfonso Ossorio (1916-1990) was an American artist who was born in the Philippines, attended boarding schools in England, and came to the United States to study at Portsmouth Priory School, Rhode Island, and then at Harvard University. Ossorio is best known as for his illustrations and abstract sculpture.

From the guide to the Wood engravings, watercolors, and photographs of sculptures, 1932-1978., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Alfonso Angel Ossorio Y Yangco was born in 1916 on the Island of Luzon in Manila, Philippines, the fourth of six boys. His mother, Maria Paz Yangco (Pacita), was of Filipino-Spanish-Chinese descent and his father, Miguel José Ossorio, founded a large sugar refinery in the Philippines, Victorias Milling Company, in 1919 that is still in production today.

Ossorio spent much of his childhood in England with his mother and two younger brothers, Frederic (Eric), and Robert (Bobby), attending Catholic preparatory schools. He came to the United States in 1930 to attend the Portsmouth Priory, a Benedictine high school run by monks in Providence, Rhode Island from 1930-1934. Ossorio became an American citizen in 1933, after which, he began his undergraduate training at Harvard (1934-1938). Despite his father's resistance, while at Harvard, Ossorio concentrated in Fine Arts, taking classes taught by Edward Waldo Forbes and Thomas Whittemore, among others. His thesis was titled "Spiritual Influences on the Visual Image of Christ." It was during his college years that he met many mentors and peers who would be influential to him throughout his life including Eric Gill, Philip Hofer, Lincoln Kirstein, and Paul Cadmus. During his summer vacations, he would study with Eric Gill at Gill's workshop, St. Dominic's Guild, in Sussex, England. There he researched medieval art and began creating wood engravings. After his matriculation from Harvard, Ossorio spent a short time studying at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), learning egg tempura techniques.

In 1940, Ossorio married Bridget Hubrecht. As she was a divorcee, this match was unacceptable to his family, so the two eloped and moved to a cottage on a ranch owned by Frieda Lawrence, the widow of D. H. Lawrence, in Taos, New Mexico. They were married for about two years. During this time he began producing surrealist art, and it was in Taos that he met Betty Parsons, who would give him his first show. After his divorce from Hubrecht, Ossorio enlisted in the army as a medical illustrator. Prior to his service beginning, he was hit by a taxi and fractured his leg, an injury that would plague him for many years. Once stationed at Camp Ellis in Illinois, Ossorio was tasked with drawing surgical procedures, many of which were very graphic and gruesome, the influence of which can be seen in his art. Ossorio was discharged from the army in 1947.

In 1948, Ossorio met Edward Dragon Young, a ballet dancer known as Ted Dragon, who would be Ossorio's partner for over 50 years. In the late 1940's and early 1950's, Ossorio met Jackson Pollock, his wife, Lee Krasner, and Jean and Lili Dubuffet. He and Dragon became incredibly close with both couples, and Ossorio purchased his new home, The Creeks, in East Hampton near the Pollocks. He also traveled to Paris to meet with the Dubuffets, later working to transport and exhibit Dubuffet's L'Art Brut collection at The Creeks.

In 1950, Ossorio traveled, for the first time since his childhood, to Victorias in the Philippines to create a mural for the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker, titled "The Angry Christ." Ossorio's family built the chapel for the residents of Victoria's after World War II, and Ossorio worked with Ade de Bethune on the decoration. In the late 1950's Ossorio founded Signa Gallery in East Hampton with John Little and Elizabeth Parker. Throughout the 1960's, Ossorio continued to exhibit his own work, the Art Brut collection, and other pieces of art he had been collecting. The Creeks was filled with continually rotating pieces of art.

Ossorio used many different media during his artistic career. He was best known for his assemblages, which he called "congregations," but he also created wood engravings, sketches, watercolors, and painting. Struggles with religion, science, life and death, and sexuality were common themes, and some of his work could be quite gruesome. Later in life, at The Creeks, Ossorio began creating sculpture and gardens, focused mainly on his strategic planting of conifers. At one point, he maintained one of the most diverse conifer collections in North America. In addition to creating and collecting art, Ossorio was also an important financial supporter of other artists, including Jackson Pollock.

Ossorio died of a ruptured aneurysm on December 5th, 1990, at the age of 74.

Edward Dragon Young (Ted Dragon) was born on April 24, 1921 in Northampton, Mass., to Raymond Louis Young and Carena Dragon Young. Dragon was interested in the arts from an early age, aspiring at first to become a pianist, but later turning towards ballet. He performed on Broadway as a chorus boy in the 1941 production of Agnes de Mille's "One Touch of Venus," and went on to work with the Paris Ballet and the New York City Ballet. It was de Mille who told him at an audition to drop his last name.

Dragon halted his ballet career once he met Ossorio in 1948. After Ossorio purchased The Creeks in 1952, Dragon took control of decorating and entertaining. He arranged furniture, and planned elaborate dinner parties, paying special attention to the menu and wine.

In the late 1950's Dragon ran afoul of the law when he was arrested for stealing valuable antique furniture from homes in the neighborhood. When asked why he would do such a thing, Dragon remarked, "…sometimes I was appalled at how badly the furniture was being kept." After he stole pieces, he refurbished and restored them to their former glory. A number of people whose furniture he had taken even wrote thank-you notes once their furniture was returned in better condition than it had been.

Upon the death of Ossorio, Dragon was willed The Creeks and $100,000. Mr. Dragon sold The Creeks to Ron Perelman in 1993, and moved into a small cottage in East Hampton, attending church regularly and delivering Meals-on-Wheels to those in need. He established the Ossorio Foundation in the mid 1990's to keep the public informed about the life and art of Alfonso Ossorio.

Dragon died at his cottage in East Hampton on October 2, 2011 at the age of 90.

From the guide to the Papers of Alfonso Ossorio and Edward Dragon Young, 1902-2000, (Harvard Art Museums Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Wood engravings, watercolors, and photographs of sculptures, 1932-1978. Houghton Library
referencedIn Catherine Viviano Gallery records Archives of American Art
referencedIn Hans Namuth photographs and papers Archives of American Art
referencedIn Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers Archives of American Art
creatorOf Poems : and wood engravings / by Alfonso Ossorio Archives of American Art
creatorOf Alfonso Ossorio papers Archives of American Art
creatorOf Artists inner vision : sound recording Archives of American Art
referencedIn Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-1990 : [miscellaneous ephemeral material]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
referencedIn Claude Fredericks papers, circa 1850-1988 (bulk 1941-1988) Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-. Alfonso Ossorio : artist file : study photographs and reproductions of works of art with accompanying documentation 1930?-1990 [graphic] [compiled by staff of The Museum of Modern Art, New York]. Frick Art Reference Library of The Frick Collection
creatorOf Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers Archives of American Art
creatorOf Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-1990. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
referencedIn New Directions Publishing records Houghton Library
creatorOf Catherine Viviano Gallery records Archives of American Art
creatorOf Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-. [Wood block of "Samson at the mill."] Houghton Library
creatorOf Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-1990. Artist file. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
creatorOf Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-. Wood engravings, watercolors, and photographs of sculptures, 1932-1978. Houghton Library
creatorOf Papers of Alfonso Ossorio and Edward Dragon Young, 1902-2000 Harvard Art Museums. Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Karl E. Fortess interviews with artists Archives of American Art
creatorOf Oral history interview with Alfonso Ossorio Archives of American Art
referencedIn Oral history interview with Luis Jimenez Archives of American Art
Relation Name
correspondedWith Abad, Pacita person
correspondedWith Aberbach, Jean person
correspondedWith Aberbach, Julian person
correspondedWith Abrams, Harry person
correspondedWith Alfonso Ossorio person
correspondedWith Alice Jones person
correspondedWith Allen, Blaise person
correspondedWith Alloway, Laurence person
correspondedWith Archives of American Art corporateBody
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correspondedWith Bankers Trust Company (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Barneby, Rupert person
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correspondedWith Bessemer Trust corporateBody
correspondedWith Bethune, Ade person
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associatedWith Blasdel, Gregg N. person
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associatedWith Bridget Hubrecht person
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correspondedWith Carmichael, Deborah person
correspondedWith Casanova, Grace Hegger person
associatedWith Catherine Viviano corporateBody
associatedWith Catherine Viviano Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith C. Fulford person
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correspondedWith Constable, Rosalind person
correspondedWith De Cuevas, Elizabeth person
correspondedWith DiMolli, Alfred person
correspondedWith Dubuffet Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Dubuffet, Jean, 1901-1985. person
correspondedWith Duchamp, Marcel person
associatedWith Edward Dragon Young, 1921-2011 person
associatedWith E. Karp person
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associatedWith Eric Frederic Ossorio person
associatedWith Eric Torres person
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correspondedWith Fogg Art Museum corporateBody
correspondedWith Forbes, Edward person
associatedWith Fortess, Karl E. (Karl Eugene), 1907- person
associatedWith Fredericks, Claude person
correspondedWith Freeman, Betty person
associatedWith Frieda Lawrence person
correspondedWith Friedman, B. H. person
correspondedWith Greene, Alexander person
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associatedWith Hollingsworth, Alvin C. person
correspondedWith Howard, Hubert person
correspondedWith Howarth, A. Alfred person
correspondedWith Howell, D. M. Douglas Morse person
correspondedWith Hubrecht, Bridget person
associatedWith Hugh Arnold person
correspondedWith Iriving, Mike person
correspondedWith Irving, Flora person
associatedWith Jackson Pollock person
correspondedWith Jean Dubuffet person
associatedWith Jimenez, Luis, 1940-2006, person
associatedWith John Brill person
associatedWith Jose Ossorio person
associatedWith Karl Fortess person
correspondedWith Kelsey, John person
correspondedWith Kramrisch, Stella person
associatedWith Krasner, Lee, 1908-1984. person
correspondedWith Krausner, Elana person
correspondedWith Lawrence, Frieda person
associatedWith Lawrence, T., person
correspondedWith Lewis, Grace Hegger person
correspondedWith Lloyd, Michael person
correspondedWith Marchant, Cecily person
correspondedWith Maria Paz Yangco person
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correspondedWith Ossorio, Alfonso person
correspondedWith Ossorio, Frederic person
correspondedWith Ossorio, Robert person
correspondedWith Owen, Jane person
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correspondedWith Parson, Jeffrey person
correspondedWith Parsons, Betty person
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associatedWith Philip Hofer. person
correspondedWith Picher, Stanton person
correspondedWith Pinto, Morris person
associatedWith Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956. person
correspondedWith Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center corporateBody
correspondedWith Portsmouth Priory corporateBody
correspondedWith Pruden, Dunstan person
correspondedWith Purdum, Rebecca person
correspondedWith Reinhold, John person
associatedWith Robert B. Dickie person
correspondedWith Robert Ossorio person
associatedWith Robert U. Ossorio person
correspondedWith Rogers, Miriam person
correspondedWith Rorem, Ned person
correspondedWith Ross, Clifford person
correspondedWith Ruzicka, Rudolph person
correspondedWith Scheinberg, De Petris & Pruzansky corporateBody
correspondedWith Schuh, Art person
associatedWith Selvig, Forrest, person
associatedWith Signa Gallery. corporateBody
correspondedWith Soriano, Jose person
associatedWith Sower Press. corporateBody
correspondedWith Stadler Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Still, Clyfford, 1904-1980. person
correspondedWith Stratton, Arthur person
correspondedWith Tapié, Michel person
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correspondedWith Tiliich, Paul person
correspondedWith Tillich, Hannah person
associatedWith Tilton person
correspondedWith Tower Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Trees Incorporated corporateBody
correspondedWith United States Trust Company of New York corporateBody
associatedWith Victoria Oscarsson person
associatedWith Victorias Milling Company. corporateBody
correspondedWith Walters, Edward person
correspondedWith Wanger, Beatrice person
correspondedWith Webster & Sheffield corporateBody
correspondedWith White, Peter person
correspondedWith Wilder, Clint person
correspondedWith William Doyle Galleries corporateBody
correspondedWith Zobel, Fernando person
correspondedWith Zogbaum, Marta person
correspondedWith Zogbaum, Wilfred person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)
New York (State)--New York
Abstract expressionism
Art, American
Art and religion
Church decoration and ornament
Painting, Modern


Birth 1916-08-02

Death 1990-12-05



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