Sam Francis (June 25, 1923 – November 4, 1994)
Sam Francis was born in San Mateo, California. He served in the United States Air Force during World War II before being injured during test flight maneuvers. He was in the hospital for several years, and it was while there, after being visited by artist David Parkin 1945, that he began to paint. Once out of the hospital he returned to Berkeley, this time to study art. He received both his BA degree (1949) and MA degree (1950) from University of California, Berkeley, where he studied botany, medicine and psychology.
Francis was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He later became loosely associated with a second generation of abstract expressionists, including Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, who were increasingly interested in the expressive use of color.
Francis’ works of the early 1970s have been referred to as Fresh Air pictures. Created by adding pools, drips and splatters of color to wet bands of paint applied with a roller, these works re-asserted the artist’s interest in color. By 1973–4 many of Francis’ paintings featured a formal grid or matrix made up of crossing tracks of color. Many of these matrix works were large in scale, measuring up to twenty feet long.
Because he worked and exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia, Sam Francis is credited with helping secure international recognition for postwar American painting. His work has been seen most often and best understood in Europe and Japan. In 1991, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1994.