Samuel Lewis Francis (June 25, 1923, San Mateo, California – November 4, 1994, Santa Monica, California) was an American painter and printmaker. He was born in San Mateo, California, and studied botany, medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He served in the United States Air Force during World War II before being injured in a plane crash. He was in the hospital for several years, and it was while he was there that he began to paint. Once he was out of the hospital he returned to Berkeley, this time to study art.
Sam Francis in 1968
|Education||University of California, Berkeley|
|Known for||Painting, Printmaking|
Francis was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He spent the 1950s in Paris, having his first exhibition there in 1952. While there he became associated with Tachisme. He later spent time in Japan, and some have seen an influence from Zen Buddhism in Francis’ work.
Francis spent some time in Paris making entirely monochromatic works, but his mature pieces are generally large oil paintings with splashed or splattered areas of bright contrasting colour. Areas of white canvas are often left to show through, and in later works, paint is sometimes confined to the edges of the canvas.
Francis returned to California during the 1960s and continued painting in Los Angeles. During the final three decades of his career his style of large scale bright Abstract Expressionism was also closely associated with Color Field painting. During the last year of his life, suffering from prostate cancer and unable to paint with his right hand after a fall, in a final burst of energy he used his left hand to complete a dazzling series of about 150 small paintings before he died. He was buried in Olema, in Marin County, California.
After the death of the artist, the Samuel L. Francis Foundation, Inc. (also known as the "Samuel L. Francis Art Museum, Inc." or the "Sam Francis Foundation") was founded. The Foundation not only serves as his official Estate, but also has a mission "to research, document, protect and perpetuate the creative legacy of [Francis]." The U.S. copyright representative for the Francis Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.
As of 2008, the Foundation is working to create a Catalogue Raisonné of Francis's work. In addition to collecting information on known Francis works, they also have a page dedicated to "missing works" for which they are seeking any information interested parties may have.
In 2010, artist and filmmaker Jeffrey Perkins released the documentary "The Painter Sam Francis". The documentary includes film of Francis at work, filmed between 1968 and the early '90s together with interviews with friends, family, and professional associates of Francis.
- Samuel L. Francis Foundation Foundation website: About the Artist page
- Kristine McKenna, " The Lion's Last Roar: Abstract Expressionist Sam Francis, his friends and associates say, was passionate, talented, generous and ferocious. In his last work, they see the genius and the pain of a man clinging to life." Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1995.
- Marin Magazine "Sam Francis: The internationally acclaimed abstract expressionist spent his last days in West Marin" By Jim Wood. October 2007.
- Samuel L. Francis Foundation Foundation website: Mission page
- Samuel L. Francis Foundation Foundation website: Rights and Reproduction page
- Samuel L. Francis Foundation Foundation website: Catalogue Raisonné page
- Samuel L. Francis Foundation Foundation website: Missing Works page
- KOEHLER, ROBERT (2010-06-10). "The Painter Sam Francis". Variety. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
- Marika Herskovic, American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s An Illustrated Survey, (New York School Press, 2003.) ISBN 978-0-9677994-1-4. pp. 130–133
- Peter Plagens, "Sunny side up - abstract expressionist painter Sam Francis," Artforum, March 1999.
- Samuel L. Francis official website
- The Samuel L. Francis Foundation website
- Francis' page at the Tate Gallery (includes a brief biography and images of his work)
- Sam Francis (artfacts)
- Gallery Delaive - Official representative of the Sam Francis estate for Europe
- examples of Sam Francis paintings
- Sam Francis Biography and Images: Hollis Taggart Galleries
- Artists Rights Society, U.S. Copyright Representatives for Sam Francis
- Sam Francis papers, 1920-2000, bulk 1950-1994. Research Library at the Getty Research Institute. Los Angeles, California. Although some papers remain with family and friends, this portion of the Francis archive gives a perspective on his life and work and documents the local context of production. The archive contains business and personal correspondence; project and business files with dealers and museums; files on the publications and prints of the Lapis Press; and photographic documentation of the artist, his work, family, friends, and collaborators. Also included are exhibition catalogs and related publications; gallery and museum posters; films and recordings made about Sam Francis; and samples of products designed by him for commercial projects.