Francis, Sam, 1923-1994

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California born artist Sam Francis was a second generation Abstract Expressionist painter who incorporated influences of Jungian psychology, Buddhism, and Japanese watercolor into the urban and angst-ridden painting style of the New York School. After living abroad in Paris and Japan, he settled in Los Angeles, where he founded a print press, the Litho Shop, a book publishing enterprise, Lapis Press, and painted prolifically until his death in 1994.

From the description of Sam Francis papers 1916-2010, (bulk 1950-1994) (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 80343168

Francis is a painter, lithographer; Los Angeles, California.

From the description of [Prints] [graphic] / Sam Francis. 1972-1982. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220205588

d. Nov. 4, 1994.

From the description of Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. (Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)). WorldCat record id: 82354550

Biographical/Historical Note

Sam Francis was born in 1923 in San Mateo, California. He studied botany and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, but dropped out before graduating to enlist in the Army during World War II. Injured in a training flight crash in 1944, he was a convalescent for several years, during which time he began to paint as a form of distraction. When he recovered he returned to college, studying painting under Bay Area artists David Park and Clifford Still.

Francis moved to Paris in the 1950s, where he had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Nina Dausset. Shortly thereafter, he joined Martha Jackson Gallery, and was featured in the landmark 1956 12 Americans show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the late 1950s he painted a mural for the Sogetsu School in Toyko, Japan, initiating a lifelong relationship with people and art institutions in that country. In the early 1960s he permanently settled in Los Angeles, where he remained a prolific painter until the end of his life. He founded a fine art printing press, the Litho Shop, in 1970, and a book publishing business, Lapis Press, in 1984, the latter with Jan Butterfield and Jack Stauffacher. He became a key figure in the incipient Los Angeles art scene, known for his support of other artists, and was a founding member of the Museum of Contemporary Art. At the same time, he had frequent exhibitions and major retrospectives at museums in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Both famous and unusually wealthy for a California painter, he felt also the burden of responsibility his achievement brought and was known to remark that he was "tired" of being Sam Francis.

A second generation Abstract Expressionist, Francis brought to the New York style of painting the influences of Jungian psychology, Buddhism and Japanese aesthetics. His work evolved from the monochrome abstractions of the 1950s to color-splattered canvases with large fields of white. While generally acknowledged as an important post-war painter, critical acclaim focuses on his 1950s paintings, a series titled Blue Balls (created in response to a bout with renal tuberculosis) and a series painted for his fourth wife, Mako Idemitsu.

Francis was married five times and had four children. He died in 1994 at the age of 71.

From the guide to the Sam Francis papers, 1916-2010 (bulk 1950-1994), (The Getty Research Institute Special Collections 1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100 Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688 (310) 440-7390)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Lobdell, Frank, 1921-. Oral history interview with Frank Lobdell, 1980 Apr. 9-May 7. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn DeFeo, Jay, 1929-1989. Oral history interview with Jay DeFeo, 1975 June 3-1976 Jan. 23. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf American Art Expositions (Firm). American Art Expositions, Inc. records. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
referencedIn Hollander, Irwin,. Oral history interview with Irwin Hollander, 1970 June 19 [sound recording]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Selz, Peter Howard, 1919-. Oral history interview with Peter Howard Selz, 1982 July 28-Oct. 12. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. [Prints] [graphic] / Sam Francis. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. Sam Francis papers 1916-2010, (bulk 1950-1994) Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Francis, Sam : Biographical file. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
referencedIn Jacobs, Mimi. [Photographs of artists taken by Mimi Jacobs, photographer]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. Artist file. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
referencedIn Alexander, Brooke. Artists and printmaking : the making of a print : lecture, 1984 February 29 / by Edmund Brooke Alexander. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Nicholas Wilder Gallery records, 1944-1984, bulk 1968-1979 Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
referencedIn Lobdell, Frank, 1921-. Oral history interview with Frank Lobdell, 1980 Apr. 9-May 7. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Jaffe, Shirley, 1923-. Oral history interview with Shirley Jaffe 2010 Aug. 27-28. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Freeman, Betty. Betty Freeman papers, 1951-1969. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn American Federation of Arts records, 1895-1993 (bulk 1909-1969) Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
creatorOf Galleria dell'Ariete. Galleria dell'Ariete records, ca. 1955-1980. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Selz, Peter Howard, 1919-. Peter Howard Selz papers, 1954-2003. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
referencedIn Nicholas Wilder Gallery. Nicholas Wilder Gallery records, 1965-1979. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Martin, Fred, 1927-. Fred Martin papers, 1949-1975. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Hollander, Irwin, 1927-. Irwin Hollander interview, 1970 June 19. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Nicholas Wilder Gallery. Nicholas Wilder Gallery records, 1944-1984 (bulk 1968-1979). Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn André Emmerich Gallery records, circa 1929-2008 Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
referencedIn Blackburn, Robert Hamilton, 1920-. Oral history interview with Robert Blackburn, 1970 Dec. 4 [sound recording]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam. [Sam Francis] : artist file John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library, Ringling Museum Library
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-. Sam Francis : artist file : study photographs and reproductions of works of art with accompanying documentation 1930?-1990 [graphic] [compiled by staff of The Museum of Modern Art, New York]. Frick Art Reference Library of The Frick Collection
referencedIn Martha Jackson Gallery. Martha Jackson Gallery records, 1954-1964. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Clement Greenberg papers, 1937-1983 Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
referencedIn Rose, Barbara. Barbara Rose papers, 1940-1993 (bulk 1960-1985). Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Leslie, Alfred, 1927-. Alfred Leslie papers, 1959-1962. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn American Federation of Arts. American Federation of Arts records, 1895-1993 (bulk 1909-1969). Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. Sam Francis : vertical file. Toledo Museum of Art
creatorOf Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. [Sam Francis : International Art & Artists File]. Libraries Australia
creatorOf Leslie, Alfred, 1927-. Alfred Leslie papers, 1959-1962. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Greenberg, Clement, 1909-1994. Clement Greenberg papers, 1937-1983. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Sam Francis papers, 1916-2010 (bulk 1950-1994) Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Sam Francis [graphic]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Lembark, Connie W., 1934-. Connie Lembark papers, 1967-1999. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Falkenstein, Claire, 1908-1997,. Oral history interview with Claire Falkenstein, 1995 Mar. 2-21 [sound recording]. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Pierre Matisse Gallery (New York, N.Y.). Pierre Matisse Gallery records, 1925-1989. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Tamarind Lithography Workshop. Tamarind Lithography Workshop records, 1954-1984. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Lobdell, Frank, 1921-. Frank Lobdell interviews, 1980 Apr. 9 - May 7. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alexander, Brooke. person
associatedWith American Art Expositions (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith American Federation of Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith André Emmerich Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Blackburn, Robert Hamilton, 1920- person
associatedWith Conner, Bruce person
associatedWith Conner, Bruce. person
associatedWith DeFeo, Jay, 1929-1989 person
associatedWith Falkenstein, Claire, 1908-1997, person
associatedWith Francis, Sam, 1923-1994. person
associatedWith Freeman, Betty. person
associatedWith Galleria dell'Ariete. corporateBody
associatedWith Greenberg, Clement, 1909-1994. person
associatedWith Hollander, Irwin, person
associatedWith Hollander, Irwin, 1927- person
associatedWith Hultén, Pontus, 1924-2006. person
associatedWith Idemitsu, Mako, 1940- person
associatedWith Jacobs, Mimi person
associatedWith Jaffe, Shirley, 1923- person
associatedWith Kelso, David. person
associatedWith Kuhawara, Ikura. person
associatedWith Lapis Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Lembark, Connie W., 1934- person
associatedWith Leslie, Alfred, 1927- person
associatedWith Lobdell, Frank, 1921- person
associatedWith Martha Jackson Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith Martin, Fred, 1927- person
associatedWith Mitchell, Joan, 1926- person
associatedWith Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nicholas Wilder Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith Pierre Matisse Gallery (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Rose, Barbara. person
associatedWith Sam Francis, person
associatedWith Selz, Peter Howard, 1919- person
associatedWith Tamarind Lithography Workshop. corporateBody
associatedWith The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
California
California--Los Angeles
Subject
Art--Collectors and collecting
Artists--California
Art, American
Small presses--California--Los Angeles
Painting, American
Abstract Expressionism
Art--American (?)--Reproductions
Small presses
Artists, American
Jungian psychology
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1923-06-25

Death 1994-11-04

Americans

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 54958069