(1923 - 1994)
Santa Monica, California
Style: Post-Painterly Abstraction
- Big Red (1953)
- In Lovely Blueness No. 2 (1955-56)
- Moby Dick (1957-58)
Sam Francis was originally trained not in painting, but in medicine and psychology. After studying at the University of California at Berkeley, Francis joined the US Army Air Corps in 1943. An injury to his spine forced Francis to spend time in a hospital, where he picked up a paint brush to help pass his recovery time. After leaving the Army Francis moved to San Francisco where he studied with David Park, who was a member of the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Members of the movement worked in a manner based on Abstract Expressionism, and the influence of the style is evident in Francis' own work. While he did not paint figuratively, he employed a broad vocabulary of splatters, drips and splashing of paint, as well as deliberately positioned fields of color. In 1950 Francis received his MA from the University of California and moved to Paris. Fernand Léger was his teacher there, and he was influenced by the local Art Informal painters, who worked in a manner similar to American Abstract Expressionists. Francis also traveled extensively in Japan, perhaps where he was inspired to leave large areas of canvas bare while aggressively applying vivid colors to designated regions. This aesthetic increased in Francis' work in the 1960s, pulling some of his pieces into the realm of Minimalism. Francis' use of negative space contrasted with expressive strokes creates the effect of serenity among chaos, and gives his work a distinctive quality. Sam Francis lost the use of his right hand at an advanced age, but managed to complete over one hundred small paintings with his left hand before his death in 1994, at the age of 71.