Just in: A Vibrant Sam Francis Painting

December 8, 2016

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) is pleased to announce the auction of a painting by one of the leading figures of post-war American art, Sam Francis (1923–1994). This work will be available in our March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Sam Francis, Untitled (SFF.535), c. 1969-1970
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Untitled (SFF.535) is an extraordinary example of Francis’s sharp skills as a colorist. Carefully laid expanses of white ground are interrupted by four organically-shaped sections, saturated in pure hues of deep purple, green, blue and crimson. The blurred, almost diluted application of paint recalls the late work of Impressionist master, Claude Monet, who proved a formative influence for Francis during his time in Paris. The rich and vibrant shades of color are typical of Francis, who was famed for experimenting with acrylic emulsion, printing inks and commercial paints, mixing his own, often rare and obscure, pigments.

This work was produced during a period of intense focus for the artist, after a few distracted years spent traveling, exhibiting around the world and becoming involved in the social protest movements of the 1960s. The interplay between the flat plane of white and the dynamism and energy of the colored sections in Untitled (SFF.535) establishes a dramatic tension absent from earlier works. It is an early example of Francis’s 1970s tendency to allow color to expand from the edges, deeper into the center of the composition. The void at the heart of the painting may be understood as an attempt to inspire a Zen-like meditative state. With Untitled (SFF.535), Francis expertly navigates the boundary between chance and artistic control, working freely with a wet roller and splatters of paint.

Francis first began painting during a period of convalescence during World War II, having been injured during a test flight in 1944. He sought inspiration from Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. His work first came to the fore in 1956 when it featured in the seminal group exhibition, 12 Americans, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. An ardent traveller, the impact of his time in Europe and Japan can be seen in the asymmetrical compositions and spontaneous brushwork of his paintings, which echo the mark-making in Japanese calligraphic art. Francis eventually settled in California in 1962 and went on to become associated with Color Field painters such as Helen Frankenthaler.

This is an opportunity to acquire an important work by internationally acclaimed abstract artist Sam Francis. Francis’s work is represented in numerous major collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Kunstmuseum Basel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Burchett-Lere, D., Agee, W.C. Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings 1946-1994. 2011. 98-102


Lot information:

Sam Francis
Untitled (SFF.535)
c. 1969-70
Acrylic on canvas
60” x 50”
This work is identified with the identification number of SFF.355 in the Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings 1946-1994. This information is subject to change as scholarship continues by the Sam Francis Foundation.
Provenance: Private Collection, Santa Monica, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Illustrated: Sam Francis. Y. Michaud. 1992. 131.
Estimate: $250,000-350,000
March 5, 2017 Modern art & Design Auction

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