Samuel Lewis Francis was born on 25 June 1923, in San Mateo, California. He began painting in 1944 during a convalescence following an accident the artist had while enrolled in The U.S. Army Air Corps. Francis decided to progress in this new passion and soon abandoned his intended medical studies to follow his artistic ambitions, earning a BA in 1949 and an MA in 1950 at the University of California, Berkeley.
Francis experimented with the leading styles in the US during the late 1940s, particularly Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism. Francis moved to Paris in 1950, where he developed a hybrid form of abstraction predicated upon cell-like forms and a sensitivity to tone and light. Francis’ discovery of the work of Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard reinforced his interest in colour, leading to associations with Art Informel that he never recognised himself. He travelled consistently throughout the 1950s, including visits to Mexico and Japan, where his encounters with traditional Eastern philosophy and art forms would radically affect his concepts of compositional emptiness and the void.
Francis returned to California in 1962 and resumed painting with a vibrant palette and dynamic application of paint. Over the next decades, Francis's style in painting and print production constantly changed and evolved, exploring different combinations of the relationship between shape and colour; colour would become increasingly absent from the late 1960s onwards. Throughout his artistic career, Francis realised several public commissions, held many international exhibitions, and had studios in cities such as Bern, Paris, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. Alongside his artistic practice, Francis dedicated the final decades of his life to various projects: the opening his own lithography studio, funding an alternative energy company (1975), assisting with the organisation of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles (1980), and the formation of Lapis Press (1984). Six years later, he founded the Sam Francis Art Museum in 1990 to perpetuate his artistic legacy and support charitable donations. Francis died on 4 November 1994 in Santa Monica, California.
Francis’ work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); The Broad, Los Angeles; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo; Kunstmuseum Basel; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.
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