Michael Ford, a freelance artist, was born in Winchester on 28 July 1920. His father Major Edward Maurice Ford MC was a soldier, farmer and managing director of a seed merchants company on the Winchester/Basingstoke borders at Quidhampton Farm, Overton. His mother Phyllis Louisa Young contracted rubella during her pregnancy and, as a consequence, Michael was born deaf. As a child he attended, along with other children from Quidhampton, the 'Home School', which his mother started on their farm. Here he learned the basic skills of lip reading, and developed his artistic skills. His mother took the view that her son had to live in a hearing world, and thus did not teach him sign language.
Ford received his art training at Goldsmith's College Art School from 1937-40 under the Principal, Clive Gardiner, who was an excellent teacher. He travelled daily to London and was 'very popular there and in spite of his handicap entered into all that was going on with great zest', including membership of the Art Students' Association.
Life on the farm ended in 1941 when Major Ford retired and the family moved in October to nearby Cobley Wood, Micheldever Station. Ford joined the Local Defence Volunteers, later the Home Guard, on its formation in May 1940, after the fall of France and commenced three days a week coal mining. He became a dispatch rider and rode both solo and side-car combination machines.
Ford exhibited in London at the Royal Academy and also with various societies, including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Royal Society of British Artists and the New English Art Club.
He would only work from live subjects, including animals. He produced detailed sketches and his wartime paintings in particular are characterised by minute observation and a naïve, narrative quality. Ford was comfortable working in several media - pastels, charcoal, inks, pencil, water colour or oils. Post-war, he had a long-standing contract with the Farmers Weekly magazine, to sketch a featured farmer or landowner. This involved meeting a range of interesting people while his mother noted the 'gossip'. He died in Winchester on 16 June 2005.
We are grateful to Gill Clarke.
Gill Clarke, The Women's Land Army, A Portrait.