Sam Francis


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“I painted to stay alive” said Sam Francis.

Confined to bed for three years following an airplane accident in 1943 during his service as a pilot in the USA Air Force, painting became for Sam Francis a way of survival and the strength of his recovery.

« Paint only the background, the location of the infinite in painting. » Sam Francis

Using the all over technique, Francis’s canvases express the infinite, the space with neither beginning nor end, parts of sky as Francis explored them when he flew over the desert.

Only the mark is form, subject to chance, which emerges spontaneously. The figure dissolves, leaving “the space that spreads between things” to appear.

Between Clifford Still and Mark Rothko for Color Field, and of Jackson Pollock for Action Painting and drip painting, Sam Francis was also inspired by the innovative practices of Matisse in terms of colour, dimensionality of space and the purity of form and simplification of gesture.

“There is no development in my paintings. There is a rhythm. They are all intense from beginning to end.” Sam Francis

Francis’s work is prolific, exploring rhythms that are as varied as they are audacious : deeps, mosaics, blue balls, mandalas… an explosive oeuvre, borrowed from mysticism, spirituality and philosophy – a discipline he studied – nourished by his numerous journeys around the world, from Japan to Mexico via India and France.

“In him there is a cosmic and metaphysical feeling for a form of nature that is both welcoming and excessive on the scale of Northern California and the Pacific.” Yves Michaud

The Sam Francis Foundation based in California is preparing the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works, among other projects. The Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946–1994 has already been published. The second volume, covering unique works on paper, is currently being prepared.



Sam Francis: Rapid fluid indivisible vision, Bechtler Museum Of Modern Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, September 18, 2015 to March 7, 2016.
Sam Francis: Master Printmaker, Milwauke Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 24, 2015 to March 20, 2016.


Major public collections

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum
Basel, Kunstmuseum
London, Tate Gallery
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
New-York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMa)
Paris, Musée national d’Art Moderne Centre Georges-Pompidou
Tokyo, Idemitsu Museum of Arts

Selected exhibitions

Selected exhibitions

Paintings by Sam Francis, The Philips Gallery, Washington, 1958
Sam Francis, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, 1959
Sam Francis, traveling exhibtion: Kunsthalle, Bern / Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1960
Sam Francis. A retrospective exhibition, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1967
Sam Francis, traveling exhibition: Kunsthalle, Basel / Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1968
Sam Francis, Centre national d’Art contemporain, Paris, 1968-69
Sam Francis. Paintings 1947-1972, traveling exhibition: AlbrightKnox Art Gallery, Buffalo / Corcoran Gallery, Washington / Whitney Museum of American Art, New York / Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas / Oakland Museum, Oakland, 1972-73
Paintings of Sam Francis in The Idemitsu Collection, Idemitsu Art Gallery, Tokyo, 1974
Sam Francis: The Fifties, The Philips Collection, Washington, 1980
Sam Francis, les années parisiennes 1950-1961, Galerie du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1995-96
Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990, travelling exhibition: The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles / Menil Collection, Houston / Malmö Konsthall, Sweden / Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid / Galleria nazionale d’Arte moderna, Rome, 1999–2001
Solo museum show, Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Osaka and Tokyo, 2000
Solo exhibition, Kunstmuseum, Bern, 2006


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