Sam Francis

For Sam Francis, exploring the creative process was his driving force. It impacted not only his

art, but his view of human progress.

One of the twentieth century’s most profound Abstract Expressionists, American artist Sam

Francis (born in California), is noted as one of the first post-World War II painters to develop

an international reputation. Francis created thousands of paintings as well as works on

paper, prints and monotypes, housed in major museum collections and institutions around

the world. Regarded as one of the leading interpreters of color and light, his work holds

references to New York abstract expressionism, color field painting, Chinese and Japanese

art, French impressionism and his own Bay Area roots.

After graduating from Cal Berkeley in 1950 with a degree in art, Francis moved to Paris,

where he would go on to be named by Time Magazine as, “the hottest American painter in

Paris these days.” A transformative period of his career, Francis immersed himself in a study

of Monet’s Water Lilies and was influenced by his close friendships with the Matisse family

and artists Al Held, Joan Mitchell, and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

For the next four decades he traveled and studied extensively, maintaining studios in Bern,

Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, New York and Northern and Southern California. Through his

travels he was exposed to many styles, techniques and cultural influences, which informed

the development of his own dialogue and style of painting. Francis possessed a lyrical and

gestural hand, enabling him to capture and record the brilliance, energy and intensity of

color at different moments of time and periods of his life. His paintings embody his love of

literature, music and science, while reflecting his deep range of emotions and personal


Not only are Francis’s paintings valued historically for their aesthetic vision, but his inquisitive

mind and spirit have solidified Francis’s legacy as a contemporary renaissance man. His

interest in the creative process was expansive and synergistic – art, technology,

psychology, science, medicine, and protecting the environment (before it became a

movement). He was an early investor in research to find creative solutions to our

dependence on non-renewable energy sources and cures for AIDs. In each of these

realms, he explored the nature of creativity – what stimulates it, the importance of testing

new ideas through experimentation as well as the roles of imagination, intuition and


- biography provided by the Sam Francis Foundation

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