(b. 1923, United States; d. 1994, United States)
Sam Francis was born in 1923, in San Mateo, California. At the age of 21, Francis was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis as a result of a U.S. Army Air Corps accident. It was during this time that Francis began painting. Three years on, Francis studied painting privately with artist David Park, graduating with a Bachelor degree in 1949 and an Masters in 1950 from the University of California, Berkeley.
Influenced by the leading art movements of the late 1940s, including Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism, Francis experimented widely and gradually developed his personal style of abstraction centered around the use of drips, cell-like forms and an all-round vibrant use of color and light.
Moving to Paris to join the Atelier Fernand Léger in 1950 exposed Francis to the works of Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, which further expanded his palette and experimentation with color. In 1952, Francis was given his first solo exhibition hosted by Galerie Nina Dausset.
Francis returned to California in 1962 where he remained until his death. Two years after his return home, his works were included in art critic Clement Greenberg’s 1964 groundbreaking exhibition, “Post Painterly Abstraction” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. However, color began to vanish from his paintings of the late 1960s, and in 1973, he formed his own lithography production company. Subsequent decades saw Francis explore various styles and palettes, from grid structures in the 1970s, to snake-like forms and drips in the 1980s.
In addition to his artistic practice and running his lithography company, Francis was also heavily involved in various visionary projects including setting up an alternative energy company in 1975; assisting with the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1980; and in 1987, Francis established a naturopathy-based medical research center.
Subject of solo exhibitions and retrospectives at dozens of institutions worldwide, from the Whitney Museum of Modern American Art, to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama in Japan to the major quinquennial exhibition Documenta in Kassel, Germany, Francis led an extensive career. Through the Sam Francis Art Museum, which he founded in 1990, four years before his death, Francis’ artistic legacy continues strong today.