Sam Francis (1923-1994)
Property of the Estate of Donald Appel
Sam Francis (1923-1994)

Emerald Child

Sam Francis (1923-1994)
Emerald Child
signed and dated 'Sam Francis 1988' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1988.
Private collection, Sweden
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 2 November 1994, lot 368
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
D. Burchett-Lere, ed., Sam Francis: Online Catalogue Raisonné Project, digital, ongoing, no. SFF.1605 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Heland Wetterling Gallery, Sam Francis Paintings 1988–1989, March-April 1990, n.p. (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

“Francis’s art is often filled with joy and optimism, but at points it was also 'haunted and anxious', even chaotic. For its creator, however, it always had the urgency of life itself.”
— (W. C. Agee, “Sam Francis: Color, Structure, and the Modern Tradition,” Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1999, p. 10.)

Pulsating with energy, Sam Francis’s Emerald Child (1988) is a symphony of color painted in the latter part of the artist’s life. Bright bursts of reds, pinks, yellows and purples erupt from the emerald green foreground, creating a kaleidoscope of color. For an artist such as Francis, color was not a mere decorative detail or a representational device, it was something which was absolutely central to his work: “Color is a pattern that plays across the membrane of the mind. Color is a series of harmonies everywhere in the universe being divine whole numbers lasting forever adrift in time” (S. Francis, quoted in K. McKenna, "Sam Francis: A Force of Nature", Los Angeles Times, 18 August 1996). In Emerald Child, Francis’s unique paint-handling technique is apparent, in which the inadvertent drips and pools of paint imbue each form with its own distinct identity.

Painted only two years after the birth of Francis’s son and having resided in the same private collection for over twenty-five years, Emerald Child is a striking example within the artist’s oeuvre. One can clearly see references to a pregnant stomach within the composition—rounded forms fill the canvas, and hints of a child within the womb instill the work with personal meaning. The different floating forms are exquisitely balanced in emerald ground that is punctuated with drips and delicate splatters of pigment that enliven the scene and disperse the contained energy within the cellular forms. Sam Francis’s unrivalled ability to produce work that combines sublime delicacy and chromatic intensity has singled him as one of the most innovative post-war artists of his generation.

More from Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Featuring The Collection of Morton and Barbara Mandel

View All
View All