American painter and
printmaker Sam Francis, born in 1923 in San
Mateo, California, is
renowned for his California Abstract Expressionist work. His career as an
artist started following an accident leading to spinal tuberculosis while
serving in the US Army Air Corps. He started to paint for distraction in 1944,
studying privately under David Park in 1947. He subsequently relinquished his
earlier medical and psychology studies in favor of painting, completing his BA
(1949) and MA (1950) at the University
of California at Berkeley. During this period he experimented
with different styles of painting, notably Surrealism and Abstract
In particular, Francis was
influenced by the Abstract Expressionist works of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock,
and Clyfford Still. He soon emerged with his own unique styles of painting in
the late 1940s. During the late 1950s, Francis traveled to Japan and his
later works seem to be influenced by Oriental art with thin paint texture and
large void spaces. The saturated fields of color reveal the influence of the
contemplative quality of Japanese art. The increasing simplicity of his latter
works resembled Minimal Art.
Primarily interested in
transforming different sensations of light onto canvas, Francis was drawn by the
light of California,
where he lived and worked, as well as Monet's Waterlillies series. Dripping,
corpuscular shapes painted in fluid are typical elements, which circulate
freely around his canvas, indicating what was to become a perennial concern
with 'ceaseless instability.' With his sensitivity to sensuous color and light,
Francis showed very different concerns from the expressive iconography and
energy of many of the Abstract Expressionists.
Despite the apparent
spontaneity of his compositions, Sam Francis was highly methodical and rigorous.
In his later work he pushed out the abstract forms to the edges of the
composition, leaving large empty spaces, again in accordance with the Oriental
notion of negative space.
Although, he is more renowned
for his paintings, Sam Francis was also an accomplished printmaker and
sculptor. The work of Sam Francis is held in the permanent collection of every
encyclopedic modern art museum in the world. Sam Francis's works have been
exhibited internationally for over fifty years. He is represented in numerous
public and private collections throughout the United
States, Europe, and Japan.
Sam Francis passed away on November 4, 1994 in Santa Monica, CA.