Sam Francis 1923-1994


Sam Francis was a 20th-century American painter and is a prominent figure in the history of post-war American art. Sam Francis’ paintings are associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Francis was born in 1923, but his serious study of art did not begin until during World War II, where he served in the Air Force. He sustained serious injuries during test flight maneuvers which resulted in him being hospitalized for several years. While a patient, he began to paint after a visit from artist David Park in 1945. Upon his release from the hospital, he went to Berkley to study art. He received BA and MA degrees from the university.

Francis’ early works were heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionists such as Gorky, Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock. However, after he moved to Paris upon receiving his MA from Berkley in 1950, he quickly developed his own colorful style in the abstract genre.

While in Paris, His work was influenced by his acquaintance with Jean-Paul Riopelle and by his study of Waterlilies by Monet. Francis also traveled to Japan during this time and was influenced by the Japanese artists’ use of open space. His work moved from a muted palette of whites and greys to colorful works featuring a great deal of open space. He also increased the size of his paintings to achieve greater emphasis and well as executing several monumental mural paintings. 

The 1960s saw more changes in Francis’ style, especially after returning to California in 1962. He was heavily influenced by a preoccupation with Eastern philosophy and mysticism. Sam Francis’ paintings also reflect his personal circumstances. Blue became a dominant color in his work, which he stated illustrated the pain he felt due to renal tuberculous and the joy of becoming a father. Francis’ Blue Ball paintings, a series of 16 known works the artist painted between 1960 and 1963, are Francis’s best-known works. Paintings from the series are part of the permanent collection of several prestigious museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

He also became a prolific printmaker creating numerous etchings, lithographs, and monotypes and opening the Litho Shop in Santa Monica, California. Francis’ lithography is known for its experimental process, painterly aesthetic, and expressive quality. He also launched the Lapis Press to experiment with visually compelling text. 

Francis remained active until his death in 1994. During the last year of his life, the artist completed a stunning series of 150 small paintings.At the time, Francis was suffering from prostate cancer and due to a fall, was forced to paint using only his left hand.

Sam Francis was one of the most prolific artists of the period, which makes it a bit easier to find quality Sam Francis art for sale. Over the past decade, demand for his work has increased as has the value of the paintings. Many art dealers and collectors note that the artist’s cachet and the increase in Sam Francis’ paintings value occurred following one of the artist’s original works having a hammer price of more than $6 million in 2010. Despite this, many works are available at prices that are within reach of most collectors.


Send me more information on Sam Francis

Please fill in the fields marked with an asterisk
Receive newsletters *

* denotes required fields

In order to respond to your enquiry, we will process the personal data you have supplied in accordance with our privacy policy (available on request). You can unsubscribe or change your preferences at any time by clicking the link in our emails.