About This Work:
One of the twentieth century’s most profound Abstract Expressionists, American artist Sam Francis (1923-1994) is noted as one of the first post-World War II painters to develop an international reputation. Regarded as one of the leading interpreters of color and light, his work holds references to New York abstract expressionism, color field painting, Chinese and Japanese art, French impressionism and his own Bay Area roots.
Francis was initially influenced by the work of Abstract Expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He later became loosely associated with a second generation of Abstract Expressionists, including Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, who were increasingly interested in the expressive use of color.
His paintings of the 1950’s evolved through a series of stages, beginning with monochromatic abstractions, followed by larger richly-colored murals and “open” paintings that feature large areas of whiteness.
He traveled and studied extensively, maintaining studios in Bern, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, New York and Northern and Southern California. Through his travels he was exposed to many styles, techniques and cultural influences, which informed the development of his own dialogue and style of painting. Francis possessed a lyrical and gestural hand, enabling him to capture and record the brilliance, energy and intensity of color at different moments of time and periods of his life. His paintings embody his love of literature, music and science, while reflecting his deep range of emotions and personal turmoil.
Francis returned to California in 1962 and was then influenced by the West Coast School’s preoccupation with mysticism and Eastern philosophy. Blue had become a more dominant feature of his work since 1959 inspired by personal suffering and the great joy of becoming a father for the first time in 1961. This led to combinations of hard color and more disciplined structures with centrally placed rectangles during the 1970’s. Eventually these more rigid structures gave way to looser configurations sometimes of snake-like forms with web-like patterns. Blue, sometimes brilliant, remained an important part of many later works.
Remarkably, Francis has been able to transfer this same combination of spontaneous gesture and signature abstract forms to graphic media, which appear to be as intuitive and direct for him as painting.
One of his most important contributions was the establishment of his own print shop. He was extremely active as a printmaker, creating numerous etchings, lithographs and monotypes, many of which were executed in his Santa Monica print shop, the Litho Shop.