Samuel L. Francis
25.06.1923 () - 04.11.1994
He was born in San Mateo, California, and studied botany, medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He served in the United States Air Force during World War II before being injured during test flight maneuvers. He was in the hospital for several years, and it was while there, after being visited by artist David Park in 1945, that he began to paint. Once out of the hospital he returned to Berkeley, this time to study art.
Francis was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He spent the 1950s in Paris, having his first exhibition there in 1952. While there he became associated with Tachisme. He later spent time in Japan, and some have seen an influence from Zen Buddhism in his work.
Francis spent some time in Paris executing entirely monochromatic works, but his mature pieces are generally large oil paintings with splashed or splattered areas of bright contrasting color, with areas of white canvas left to show through. Francis painted large murals for the Kunsthalle, Basel in 1956-8 and for the Chase Manhattan Bank, New York in 1959. In the early 1960s, Francis began his "Edge" series in which paint is sometimes confined to the margins of the canvas.
Francis returned to California during the 1960s and continued painting, mainly in Los Angeles, but also in Tokyo where he lived primarily in 1973-4. During the final three decades of his career his style of large scale bright Abstract Expressionism, which featured spontaneous and gestural applications of acrylic paint and washes, was also closely associated with Color Field painting.
During the last year of his life, suffering from prostate cancer and unable to paint with his right hand after a fall, in a final burst of energy he used his left hand to complete a dazzling series of about 150 small paintings before he died. He was buried in Olema, in Marin County, California.
On May 11, 2010, a Francis 1957 painting titled "Middle Blue" was sold at auction for $6,354,500, a record for the artist.