Sam Francis 1923–1994

Native Californian painter and printmaker Sam Francis is most noted for his use of dynamic forms saturated with intense color amid spaces of white. Francis studied medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, but joined the US Air Force in 1943. He first began painting during a prolonged hospitalization for spinal tuberculosis and, upon his return to the United States, he pursued his art education at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and then again at U.C. Berkeley.

Francis’s early works were strongly influenced by both Abstract Expressionism and French Impressionism, compelling him to move to Paris in 1950. Francis remained in France for ten years, quickly earning himself a reputation as a “tâchiste” (meaning “stain” or “splash”) painter who preferred to accentuate brilliant color through painterly strokes. This time abroad was highly productive and successful, and his works were featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Bienal de São Paolo.

In 1961, Francis returned to California where he lived and worked for the remainder of his life. In addition to contemporary Western influences, he would also adopt an interplay of negative space and bursts of color that can be largely attributed to his study of Japanese calligraphy. Francis’s work has been exhibited in multitudes of international galleries and museums, including the Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Modern Art, Japan; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

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