Native Californian painter and printmaker, Sam Francis is most noted for his use of dynamic forms saturated with intense color amidst spaces of white. He studied medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, but joined the Air Force in 1943. Francis began painting during a prolonged hospitalization due to spinal tuberculosis.
Upon his return to the United States, he pursued his art education at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and again at U.C. Berkeley. Abstract Expressionism and French Impressionism influenced his early paintings, and most likely compelled him to move to Paris in 1950 where he remained for ten years. While there, he quickly exhibited his work in solo and group shows, earning him a reputation as a tâchiste painter (meaning “stain” or “splash”), a group of painters that preferred to accentuate brilliant color through painterly strokes.
After a highly successful stint in Paris, including shows at the Museum of Modern Art (1956) and the 1959 Bienal de São Paolo, Francis again returned to California in 1961 where he lived for the remainder of his life. In addition to his contemporary Western influences, the interplay of negative space and bursts of color can be attributed to his study of Japanese calligraphy art during his frequent visits to his vacation home in Japan.
His experiments with borders and the containment of washes of color would inform his work for decades, as he became increasingly concerned with the differences between solids and voids, boundaries and fields.
Francis’ works have been exhibited in multitudes of international galleries and museums, including the New Tate Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, Japan, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. His work is currently featured in SAM FRANCIS & FRIENDS – TING, APPEL, ALECHINSKY at MUSEUM JAN VAN DER DOGT (Amsterdam); ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM at the ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS (London); and DRAWING, DREAMING, AND DESIRE- WORKS ON PAPER BY SAM FRANCIS at the NORTON SIMON MUSEUM (Pasadena, CA) and many others.