Sam Francis, artist among the leaders of Abstract Expressionism and Action painting, discovered himself as a painter during a long period of hospitalization following an accident. His art was marked by a tireless and ever-deepening questioning of life and humanity.
The pictorial phases of Sam Francis, artist whose biography is full of events and changes, are marked by his personal events. Thanks to Sam Francis' technical skill, his works combine meditations and cues from the outside world in compositions full of light and harmony.
Sam Francis biography starts in San Mateo, California, where the artist was born in 1923. After studying medicine and psychology at the University of California (Berkeley), he enlisted as a pilot in the United States Air Force.
During the Second World War, Sam Francis got injured in an accident. He was forced to stay in hospital for a long time, and he encountered art in his desperate search for a form of escapism. From this moment onwards, he would never leave her. In the latter half of the 1940s, he studied painting and art history at the California School of Fine Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. The first Sam Francis abstract painting dates back to 1947.
At the beginning of the 1950s, the artist moved to Paris. In 1952, Sam Francis held his first solo exhibition at Galerie du Dragon. The city of Paris, teeming with artists and ideas, had a major influence on Sam Francis. Artist with a tireless curiosity for the art world, he was mainly inspired by the Informal art and Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock.
After participating in the exhibition 'Tendances Actuelles' at the Kunsthalle in Bern and in '12 Americans' at the MoMA in New York, Sam Francis went on a long journey, spending long periods in New York, Mexico and Japan. Sam Francis' interest in Asian art resulted in works employing oriental techniques, such as the use of thin layers of colour and the insertion of large empty spaces.
The technique of Haboku (fused ink painting) involves the abstract simplification of forms, allowing the brushstrokes to be free. It usually consists in a layered contrast of black, grey and white. The similar Hatsuboku technique, on the other hand, uses ink sketches without outlines. In Japan, both painting styles were invented and disseminated by the painter Sesshū Tōyō.
In 1961 Sam Francis participated in the exhibitions “Art and Contemplation” at Palazzo Grassi in Venice and “Abstract Expressionists and Imaginists” at the Guggenheim in New York. In the same year, the artist suffered a serious illness, which forced him to spend several months in hospital.
A year later, the artist returned to California. In Sam Francis’ last years, he continued his research, devoting himself not only to painting, but also sculpture and press. Founded in 1984 by Sam Francis, Lapis Press is now a leading publishing house committed to working with contemporary artists with a unique and uncompromising vision, producing original, timely and visually appealing texts.
The Sam Francis Foundation, dedicated to the transformative power of art, was also born out of the artist's legacy. Its mission is to promote a deeper understanding of the painter's art and ideas through a range of projects designed to educate, inform and raise awareness about the fundamental importance of creativity in today's society.
Painted in oil and acrylic on canvas during the trip to Mexico of Sam Francis, Around the Blues brings together precious symbolism, references and memories of its author. The work is currently part of the collection of the Tate Modern in London.
In Around the Blues, Sam Francis paints patches of colour delicately succeeding one another. They form an oval, the left hemisphere of which is clearly thicker. Blue prevails in the composition, representing the cosmos and water. Its flow is interrupted at times by yellow brushstrokes, symbolizing the Sun. The colourful interlockings stand out against a white background, which corresponds to infinity for the artist.
Belonging to the Foundation dedicated to Sam Francis, Middle Blue is a 1957 oil painting on canvas. The work represents a turning point in Sam Francis' style. In fact, enchanted by the masterpieces of Henri Matisse and Alberto Giacometti, in the late 1950s the painter began to explore the qualities of the background which supports his coloured galaxies.
Sam Francis' Middle Blue is emblematic of the artist's new attitude. He sees the white canvas no longer as a mere base, but as a colourful and powerful element in its own right.
In Middle Blue, Sam Francis orchestrates different shades of blue to achieve a lapis lazuli-like effect, in a vibrant contrast with the surrounding white. The surface is dotted with splashes of colour, giving the work as a whole a pure sense of light.
In Sam Francis’ Shining Black, an oil on canvas work dating back to 1958, some of the insights from his confrontation with the Eastern world converge. The drops and splashes of colour that populate the surface reflect Francis' interest in Japanese haboku, and testify to his transition towards a more free and gestural technique.
In Shining Black Sam Francis alternates between vibrant bursts of coloured paint and white regions. His creative force intertwines with the powerful meanings around the notion of void that he learned about while travelling in Japan.
Sam Francis’ Untitled was created in 1958 using watercolour on paper, mounted on canvas. It belongs to the collection of the Guggenheim Museum of New York.
In the work by Sam Francis Untitled, the colours explode in their sensual, almost hedonistic qualities, which are amplified when in contact with the white surrounding space. Adopting a style characteristic of Abstract Expressionism, Sam Francis achieves an expressive individuality through the interlocking of dense nebulae of red tones and the silent white that supports them.
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