Sam Francis

For American artist Sam Francis (1923–1994), exploring the creative process was his driving force, which had a significant impact on his art and his view on human progress.

One of the most profound Abstract Expressionists of the 20th century, Francis has been noted as a pioneering post-World War II painter and one of the first to develop an international reputation. He created thousands of paintings as well as works on paper, prints, and monotypes, which are currently housed in prominent museums and institutions around the world. A leading interpreter of color and light, his work resonates with New York abstract expressionism, color field painting, Chinese and Japanese art, French impressionism and his own Bay Area roots.

After graduating with a degree in art from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950, Francis moved to Paris, where he was to be hailed by Time Magazine as "the hottest American painter in Paris these days." In this transformative period of his career, Francis immersed himself in the study of Monet’s Water Lilies and came under the influence of his close friends from the Matisse family, as well as artists such as Al Held, Joan Mitchell, and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Francis traveled and studied extensively in the next four decades while maintaining studios in Bern, Paris and Tokyo, Mexico City, New York, and both Northern and Southern California. During his travels, he was exposed to multifarious styles, techniques and cultural influences, which informed the development of his own style. His lyrical and gestural hand enabled him to capture and record the brilliance, energy, and intensity of color at different moments throughout his lifetime, reflecting a wide range of emotions and in-depth personal turmoil. Moreover, his paintings are embodiments of his love for literature, music, and science.

Not only are Francis’s paintings held in high esteem for their aesthetic vision, but this contemporary Renaissance man’s inquisitive mind and spirit have also solidified his legacy to art history. His interest in the creative process was so expansive and synergistic that it covers a wide range of fields such as art, technology, psychology, science, medicine and environmentalism (before it became a movement, no less).

Francis pioneered early investment into research to find creative solutions to our reliance on non-renewable energy sources and the cure for AIDS. He explored the nature of creativity in each of these realms and addressed fundamental questions about what stimulates creativity, how important it is to experiment with new ideas, and what roles imagination, intuition, and knowledge play in the creative process.

Following Francis’s persuasion that life is a series of challenges, the Sam Francis Foundation is devoted to his sense of wonder, his freedom to explore, his mantra to dream, and his life force to be creative.