This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more

Untitled (SF94-020)

Untitled (SF94-020)
stamped with the signature and Sam Francis Estate stamp (on the reverse); inscribed 'SF94-020' (on the backboard)
acrylic on paper laid on canvas laid on board
69 x 92 cm. (27 1/8 x 36 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1994
The Sam Francis Estate
Private Collection
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 28 February 2008, lot 208
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sam Francis: The Last Paintings from the Santa Monica Studio, 1995
Special notice
This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.
Further details
This work is identified with the interim identification number of SF94-020 in consideration for the forthcoming Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Unique Works on Paper. This information is subject to change as scholarship continues by the Sam Francis Foundation.

Lot Essay

Painted during the final year of his life, Sam Francis’s Untitled (SF94-020) (1994) is an inspirational display of artistic spirit, a ferocious demonstration of the will to create brought to life with the artist’s typically masterful handling of colour. After six months of creative silence brought on by the paralysis of his right hand – having always painted with both hands, he at first found using only his left highly uncomfortable – 1994 saw Francis produce a final explosive body of work before his death in November of that year. Working in the knowledge that he was possibly painting for the last time and in constant agony – his pain medication often made him too sleepy to work – Francis’s painting is imbued with a hard-won spirit of achievement. Against a blank white field, he plays out a drama of primal force, as thick, intersecting curves of oceanic blue are splashed with tendrils of blood-red, flicked around the composition with a visceral, energy. Francis puts these two primary colours in counterpoint, embodying them with form in a conflict between order and disorder, structure and chaos; while his sweeps of blue coalesce to produce a single unit of form that is organised by a consistent internal logic – appearing as rudimentary figure, or runic symbol – Francis’s reds spatter over the surface of the work with liberated, violent abandon. The result is a composition of high emotional pitch, the vivacity of Francis’s colours combining to bring the white of his paper itself to a point of brilliant incandescence.

Francis’s hand is instantly recognisable in the luminescent richness of the work’s palette and the delicate capillaries of paint that whip airily around the surface of the paper, but the painting also possesses a forcefulness that stands it apart, with its blocky stripes of marbled blue redolent of the muscular brushwork of Franz Kline and the sheer energy of the work’s drip painting recalling Jackson Pollock. Indeed, Francis’s characteristically gleaming white is dominated by the paint, as if the painter is vying for supremacy over it; where previously Francis’s colours harmonised with his white fields, here they seem gladiatorial, pitted against the paper in visceral conflict. With Herman Melville’s Moby Dick in mind, Francis had previously called white a ‘ringing silence… an endless, ultimate point at the end of your life’ (S. Francis, quoted in P. Selz, Sam Francis, New York, 1975, p. 64) – and here, confronting death, his painting seems to fight against this void, recording a final, fundamental desire to make his mark on the canvas.

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