Sam Francis

Sam Francis

Sam Francis was an American painter and printmaker. He was born on June 25, 1923 in San Mateo, California to Katherine Lewis Francis and Samuel Augustus Francis, Sr. His mother died when he was a young boy in 1935, and her death had a profound impact on him. Although he was especially close to his mother, who encouraged his interest in and love of music from a young age, he was able to later have a strong bond with his stepmother, Virginia Peterson Francis.

Sam Francis joined the United States Air Force, and he served with the Air Force in World War II until he sustained injuries during a test flight maneuver. His extensive injuries left him in the hospital for a number of years, which proved to be a turning point in his life. While he was in the hospital, Sam Francis was visited by the artist David Park in 1945, and it was at this point that Francis began to paint.

After he got out of the hospital, Francis once again returned to Berkeley, where he studied at the University of California at Berkeley. Here, here received two degrees — a Bachelor of Arts in 1949 and a Master of Arts in 1950 — and studied medicine, psychology, and botany.

Francis spent a large portion of the 1950s in Paris, where he had his first exhibition. In addition to Paris, Francis spent time painting and working in several other cities, including Tokyo, Bern, and New York, among others. In the 1960s, he returned to California, where he worked and lived mostly in and around Los Angeles. At this point, his work began to evolve and develop, and he was paying special attention to the psychological implications and suggestions of his works.

In 1984, he founded the Lapis Press, with the goal of producing both timely and unusual texts in attractively and visually appealing forms and formats. He later died in 1985 after losing his battle with prostate cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer rendered him unable to paint with his right hand during the last year of his life; however, he experienced a final burst of energy toward the end of his life, allowing him to paint with his left hand and produce several new pieces of work. He passed away in Santa Monica, California and was buried in Olema, in Marin County.

Sam Francis Artwork

Both during his life and after his death, Sam Francis received international acclaim and was beloved the world over. This was due partly to the fact that he worked and painted the world over, making his works accessible and familiar to people all over the globe. The records for his work are beyond impressive — in 2010, a painting that Francis created in the 1950s titled Middle Blue sold for an impressive $6,354,500, which was a record for the artist at the time. And, in 2013, Francis’s Symphony in Blue, a watercolor and gouache on paper, sold at Sotheby’s for more than $1,000,000 — setting his record for a work of art on paper.

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