This work is registered with the Sam Francis Estate as archive number SFP47-2.
In 1947, while living in San Francisco, Sam Francis turned from figurative painting to an abstraction that defined his work for the rest of his career. William Agee has noted that although this work has been largely discussed in relation to the New York School and Abstract Expressionism, in fact the San Francisco Bay Area was a major center of the Post-War phenomenon between the years 1947-1950. Clifford Still and Mark Rothko were crucial to this development, as teachers at the California School of Fine Arts, where the many of the best talents either studied or taught during this time, including Hassel Smith, Frank Lobdell, Richard Diebenkorn, David Park and Ad Reinhardt. While Francis never enrolled in the school, he was in touch with it through friends and fellow artists who studied there, and was a presence on campus.
The art and teachings of Still and Rothko were as influential for him as they were for others. Agee writes, "While his art was first associated in the public mind with the New York School, it never bore the immediate marks of rawness and existentialist angst that characterized much of early gestural abstraction in that city. From the beginning, his work related to the organic forms, color and vast space of Clifford Still, tempered by the softer, more modulated surfaces of Mark Rothko, the two artists who most determined the direction of Bay Area abstraction in the late 1940s" (W. Agee, Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990, Los Angeles, 1999, p. 9).
Francis' work from this period, including the present two works, are powerful examples of the artist's groundbreaking exploration of Abstract Expressionism. The organic forms and expansive space reflects the simultaneity of absence and presence that Rothko's works develop during this period as well as the intuitive, emotional approach that Still encouraged. Francis' paintings balance dynamic gestural brushstrokes with vibrant colors that are illuminated by a strong internal light. Francis' bright palate is infused with Titanium White which results in both a translucency and a sense of envelopment. The juxtaposition of the white fields with blue, yellow, red and violet elements determines the action of the painting and creates profound interrelationships. These early works reveal the discovery that was to define Francis' long career, the "affirmation of the power of abstract color painting to embody authentic, deeply personal experience and to convey this in profound and immediate terms" (Ibid, p. 47).