Sam Francis - works on paper
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Sam Francis (1923 - 1994) occupies a prominent position in post-war American
painting. Although associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement and Clement
Greenberg's Post-Painterly Abstraction, unlike many American painters of he
time he had direct and prolonged exposure to French painting and to Japanese
art which had an individual impact on his work.
On leaving the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944 owing to illness Francis took up
painting as a hobby. He decided to make this a serious undertaking studying
under David Park in 1947 and completed his BA and MA at the University of California.
He was greatly influenced by Abstract Expressionism particularly the works of
Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock. In his use of space on the canvas to allow
free circulation of strong colour and the sensitivity to light Francis developed
his own style by the time his studies had ended.
Francis moved to Paris in 1950 where he met Jean-Paul Riopelle who was to remain
an important influence, and study of Monet's Waterlilies had a profound impact
on his work. From a very muted palette of greys and whites he returned to the
qualities of light and colour producing such works as Big Red 1953. He continues
to develop the use of white space and increased the dimensions of his paintings
for greater emphasis. During his period in Europe he executed a number of monumental
Francis returned to California in 1962 and was then influenced by the West Coast
School's preoccupation with mysticism and Eastern philosophy. Blue had become
a more dominant feature of his work since 1959 inspired by personal suffering
and the great joy of becoming a father for the first time in 1961. This led
to combinations of hard colour and more disciplined structures with centrally
placed rectangles during the 1970s. Eventually these more rigid structures gave
way to looser configurations sometimes of snake-like forms with web-like patterns.
Blue, sometimes brilliant, remained an important part of many later works.
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