SAM FRANCISAmerican 1923 - 1994

Sale, Christie's, New York, 13 May 1998, lot 151
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner

SAM FRANCISAmerican 1923 - 1994

Francis’s abstract compositions are amongst the most innovative explorations of colour and light in twentieth-century art. A leading second-generation exponent of Abstract Expressionism, Francis used colour to explore the subjective. His treatment of colour and space was profoundly influenced by a 1957 visit to Japan, where he eventually established a studio. The present work’s vibrant bursts of colour and gestural splatters and drips reflect Francis’s interest in Japanese haboku, or flung-ink painting. Its expansive white spaces derive from the East Asian concept of the void: a state of mind achieved in complete silence and stillness. Other works in this vein are in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art; an earlier example is currently on view at the Royal Academy London’s Abstract Expressionism (Summer No. 2, 1957, cat no. 88).

Francis explored the properties and possibilities of colour throughout his career; he began to formulate his own pigments, translating his intuitive understanding of light and colour into a tangible image, such as the present work. His paintings, as the Japanese poet and critic Yoshiaki Tono aptly noted, are of a “completely calculated Innocence.”

Francis studied under David Park, pioneer of the Bay Area Figurative School, and later under Fernand Léger in Paris. Within a few years his work found critical acclaim and he was embraced by numerous important art historians and curators, including Michel Tapié, Pierre Schneider, and Georges Duthuit. In 1956 Time magazine described him as “the hottest American painter in Paris these days” and that same year he was included in the seminal 12 Americans exhibition curated by Dorothy C. Miller at the MoMa. Francis travelled widely throughout his career, spending several years in Japan, where he embraced calligraphy in his treatment of ink and colour. Although he returned to California in the early 1960s, he maintained studios around the world. Working in Bern, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo, he was the first Post-War American painter whose reach was truly international.

Francis’s work can be found in numerous public collections worldwide, including the Tate Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Idemitsu Museum of Arts and the Centre Pompidou.