• Sam Francis

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Sam Francis is one of the most important American artists, born in San Mateo (California) in 1923 and died in Santa Monica in 1994. After a plane crash while serving in the US Air Force, he began painting in 1944 while recovering, then studied with David Park at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. His early abstractions, which are still reminiscent of Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock, show spontaneous painterly gestures that lead to the typical American "all over" structure: the canvas is entirely covered with dots, stains, markings and other traces of the brush the painter's covered. When Francis stayed in Paris from 1950 to 1957, he gave up color and broke new ground with works such as “White Painting” (1950). But as early as the summer of 1951 in the south of France he was using pink and red again, only to return to the entire range later. Sometimes he uses all colors and their variants in the tone, sometimes he lets one color predominate, as in "Blue Balls" (1960). Although Francis has been associated with color field painting, it must be seen as an aid to classification that should help one to cope with a highly original imagery. If "fields" appear in Francis, they are almost never (if ever) color fields. Instead, they have an interplay of foreground and background. Often they create depth, which makes the canvas more of a “color space”.

It is typical of Sam Francis' pictorial strategies that he often leaves the center of the picture free and empty and concentrates on the edges of the picture. These pictures find their counterbalance in the oeuvre in those in which he does exactly the opposite. Sometimes his works are interwoven with central geometric structures, or merge with a pictorial grid or grid that extends over the entire surface. This can go as far as in “Blue and Yellow” (1954, ex Betty Freeman collection), where he closes the canvas and uses it as the basis for an abstract pattern structure.

After his death in 1994, Sam Francis' works continued to be shown in the most important international museums and galleries. The Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie last presented a large solo exhibition of his works in 2017.

But in contrast to the often unbridled and demonstratively rowdy method of action painting, Sam Francis' works are created in a calmer and more deliberate manner. Colour fields and splashed convey the impression that his works are merely part of a whole and go beyond their physical limits.

Sam Francis, 1968 ©Photo, Eric Koch, Nationaal Archief, Den Haag



Museum Exhibition (selection)

Sam Francis & Japan. Emptiness overflowing, 4.10.2020 - 24.01.2021, LACMA, Los Angeles, USA

From dusk till dawn, 15.11.2018 - 19.04.2019, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA

Sam Francis & Friends. Ting - Appel - Alechinsky, 16.09.2016-08.01.2017, Museum Jan van der Togt, Amstelveen, Netherlands

Phares, 14.02.2014 - 15.02.2016, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz

Sam Francis: Five Decades of Abstract Expressionism from California Collections, 26.01.2014 - 20.04.2014, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, USA

Sam Francis: Five Decades of Abstract Expressionism from California Collections, 11.08.2013 - 05.01.2014, Pasadena Museum of California Art, Los Angeles

Experiments in Abstraction, 26.11.2011 – 19.02.2012, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA