Dublin Core




De Forest, Roy


22 x 30 inches



Still Image Item Type Metadata


Roy De Forest was an American painter, sculptor, and teacher. He was involved in both the Funk art and Nut art movements in the Bay Area of California. De Forest's art is known for its quirky and comical fantasy lands filled with bright colors and creatures, most commonly dogs.
Roy De Forest was born in North Platte, Nebraska to migrant farm workers during the Great Depression. De Forest's family lost their farm in Nebraska due to the harsh economic conditions during the Great Depression and were forced to move to Yakima, Washington. In Yakima, the De Forests bought a new farm, where they harvested pears and plums. De Forest described the socioeconomic status of his family as "not well off." Farm life had an important impact on De Forest's art. In his early art, De Forest experimented with landscape, which was inspired by the open land of his farm. Later in his career, De Forest began painting animals and other fantasy creatures in his art, which was inspired by growing up around farm animals.
De Forest attended Yakima Junior College, where his interest in art and art history developed. He initially was an engineering major, but soon realized that art came more naturally to him. In 1950 he moved to California to study at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) on scholarship, where he earned a bachelor's degree (1953). After serving in the US Army as a sign painter, De Forest went on to earn his master's degree (1958) at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University).
After graduating from San Francisco State University, De Forest got his first teaching job at Yakima Junior College and spent two years teaching there. After this, he moved around from job to job for a short period of time, teaching children's classes in Oakland, California. He also taught night classes at the Bay Area prison, San Quentin. Here, he worked in the Adjustment Center, which later became death row. De Forest described his time teaching in San Quentin as extremely interesting and greatly influential on his teaching.
De Forest started working for a young UC Davis Art Department in 1965. He was originally hired as a lecturer but worked his way up to assistant professor and eventually full professor in 1974. At UC Davis, De Forest worked with fellow artists Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri, Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley. On the occasion of the exhibit "You See: The Early Years of the UC Davis Art Faculty," Renny Pritikin of the Nelson Gallery said "History was made in the Central Valley in the early '60s when five great artists came together on the same faculty for over a decade and changed the nature and perception of art in California forever." De Forest taught at UC Davis for twenty-seven years before retiring in 1992.
De Forest's first exhibition was in 1955, and the work reflected the influence of Abstract Expressionism, along with a developing interest in assemblage. He continued to submit paintings and other forms of art in exhibitions for over fifty years until his death in 2007.
During the 1960s, UC Davis became a hub for the Funk art movement, with many of the artists associated with this movement either teaching at Davis, or having studied there. De Forest, along with Arneson, Wiley, and David Gilhooly often exhibited together under this heading, including semi-regular shows at the Candy Store Gallery in nearby Folsom, California. Another important figure in the Funk art movement was Clayton Bailey, who was De Forest's neighbor, friend, and collaborator.
De Forest, along with Bailey, was also a key figure in the development of Nut art, a new artistic genre that paralleled Funk art, and which flourished primarily in the late 1960s and early 1970s in northern California. The term Nut art was coined by De Forest (in conversation with poet and critic David Zack) to describe an approach to art making that embraced humor and personalized fantasy worlds.
De Forest claims that "the aspect of invention in painting is the major factor in what you would call my style of painting." De Forest rejected traditional styles of painting. He claimed that "rather than, say, taking an image and then finding a way to express it in paint, sometimes I think about how to use a paint and then find an image that fits it." De Forest's style depicts journeys to fantasy lands filled with creatures, some familiar, some not. These lands were quirky, comical, and crowded, filled with texturized, hallucinogen colors. He describes himself as a "obscure visual constructor of mechanical delights."
De Forest believed in having a great amount of variety in paintings. He believed that everything in a painting should differ in size, shape, etc. De Forest rejected bilateral symmetry, instead preferring randomness. An example of this are the dots he adds in his work, which have become sort of a trademark these dots are a trademark of his art.
De Forest is most known for the use of animals and fantasy creatures in his art, in particular, dogs. He became inspired to use animals in his artwork because he grew up on a farm and was constantly surrounded by dogs, cows, horses and other animals. He enjoyed adding creatures into his art because they reminded him of his past. De Forest believed that these animals also made his paintings more fun to make.
De Forest's work grew more representational as his career continued, and began to include suggestions of maps and motifs evocative of persons and animals as his career continued. By the late 1960s this transformation was nearly complete, as De Forest's work now freely mixed patterns and non-objective elements along with recognizable forms such as people, landscapes, and most notably, animals.
Towards the end of his life, De Forest's work also began to reflect his surroundings and life in Port Costa, California, with elements such as old brick buildings, birds, and dogs becoming more commonplace in his compositions.
As the physical forms in De Forest's work grew more recognizable, the origins and relationships between such grew more personal, suggestive of dream worlds and developing personal mythologies.Overall, Roy De Forest is best known for his comic-like patchwork regionalist (California) style, often depicting dogs and other figurative content in his art. His painting, Untitled (Devils/Dogs) from 1989-1990 in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art is typical of this style, and like many of his paintings, De Forest made the frame as well.
Early in De Forest's art career he used standard oil paint to make landscape paintings. Later, in a deliberate attempt to move away from abstract expressionism, De Forest stopped using oil paint and began using different mixtures of water-based paint. This does not allow the color of his paintings to blend as it would with oil paint. He sometimes used cheap oil paint as well to get his desired rough, scorched textures.
Though primarily known as a painter, De Forest worked in other mediums as well, including sculpture, printmaking, and fabric. Several of his assemblage pieces, in addition to a few paintings, are in the diRosa collection.
De Forest had two children, a son named Pascal and a daughter, Orianna. Pascal, following the tradition of his father, majored in art at San Francisco State University. He has three sisters; Beth, Beverly, and Lynn.
De Forest lived his latter years in Port Costa, California, surrounded by open land filled with dogs, cattle, and birds. De Forest died May 18, 2007 in Vallejo, California after a short illness.





Media Details

Lithograph, 63/75

Signature Position

Signed, lower left; numbered 63/75


Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Lust


De Forest, Roy, “Untitled,” Westport Public Schools Digital Collections, accessed May 6, 2021,

Item Relations

This Item dcterms:creator Item: Roy De Forest
This Item dcterms:relation Item: Center for Senior Activities