Sam Francis (1923-1994)
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Sam Francis (1923-1994)


Sam Francis (1923-1994)
signed, inscribed, stamped with the Estate of Sam Francis stamp and dated ‘Sam Francis 60 Paris’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
25 1/2 x 21 3/8in. (64.9 x 54.3cm.)
Painted in 1960
Galerie Klipstein and Kornfeld, Bern.
Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above).
Anon. sale, Christie’s New York, 17 May 2001, lot 125.
Private Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
M. Waldberg, Sam Francis: Metaphysics of the Void, New York 1986, pp. 66 and 201 (illustrated in colour, p. 67).
S. Drucker, ‘Waxing Purple in Manhattan’, in Architectural Digest, December 2004 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 197).
D. Burchett-Lere (ed.), Sam Francis: Online Catalogue Raisonné Project, digital, ongoing, no. SFF.316 (illustrated).
Bern, Galerie Klipstein und Kornfeld, Sam Francis: Werke 1960-1961, 1961, no. 1 (illustrated, unpaged).
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Sam Francis, 1962-1963, p. 41, no. 22 (incorrectly titled 'Blue Cross').
Bonn, Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Sam Francis, 1993, pp. 162 & 468 (illustrated in colour, p. 163).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 1960, Blue belongs to one of the most important periods of Sam Francis’ career. Held in the same private collection for more than twenty years, the work was exhibited in major surveys of Francis’ work at the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover in 1963 and the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn in 1993, the year before the artist’s death. Blue paint is applied deftly across the canvas, spreading and seeping along the surface in a manner reminiscent of Morris Louis or Helen Frankenthaler. As can be seen in Blue, by 1960 Francis had become more bold in leaving blank canvas and allowing the empty space to add tension and atmosphere to his work. Whilst this negative space became more apparent, so did Francis’ shapes become bigger, sharper and more clearly delineated. This formal and chromatic evolution was almost certainly a result of Francis’ admiration for Henri Matisse’s late cut-out works, such as Blue Nude II (1952), which he took inspiration from when he made his highly regarded Chase Manhattan Bank Mural in 1959. Francis’ intrigue with the colour blue extended to the more metaphysical as well. He did not just see it as a strictly uplifting colour but was keenly aware of the depths held within it.

Throughout the late 1950s and into the year 1960 Sam Francis travelled continuously finding himself regularly in New York, Mexico, Paris and Japan. The influence of these adventures can be seen in the work he produced. Japanese Haboku painting held particular interest for Francis, most notably its stress on creating a sense of balance within each artwork. Blue exemplifies this quality, with Francis allowing the work to breathe with pockets of bare white canvas working in harmony against the brilliant blue paint. However, it was not just his external surroundings that were influencing Francis. Unbeknownst to him at the time of painting this work, Francis was suffering from a bout of renal tuberculosis that would eventually hospitalise him. This internal struggle, coupled with his movement away from the first generation of Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, which had already begun in the late 1950s, led Francis to embark on his next phase of work. Blue marks the beginning of arguably Francis’ boldest boundary-expanding era.

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