Private Collection, San Marino, California (acquired directly from the artist in 1954)
Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in 1997)
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Los Angeles, Manny Silverman Gallery, Sam Francis: Selected Works, April - May 1999
Aarau, Switzerland, Aarguer Kunsthaus, Sibylle Omlin/Beat Wismer, das Gedächtnis der Malerei, August - November 2000, p. 341, illustrated in color
Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Action Painting Arte Americana 1940-1970: Dal Disegno all'opera, November 2004 - February 2005
The visual experience I underwent as a result of my initial contact with this painting was overwhelming. I sensed in it an original statement, a certain freshness and monumentality which, at that juncture, I could not yet quite define. My reactions were purely sensory and intuitive, not yet having been blunted by the weight of scholarly research. There was so much happening in that white painting which stirred my perceptions – the simultaneously opaque and translucent quality of the pigments all in related tonalities, white, gray, silver, occasionally highlighted by contrasting maroon, a flowing surface of cellular shapes spilling over the edges of the canvas. I had never quite seen anything like it before.
- Robert Elkon upon viewing a White Painting in Paris, 1950-51
Francis studied painting at the California School of Fine Arts and then at the University of California at Berkeley. Upon graduation in late 1950, Francis moved to Paris and was immediately struck by the soft gray light of the city. Light and atmosphere became a palpable substance that he knew in all its moods, day and night, dawn and evening, rain and shine. Francis remained extremely sensitive to light and its specific qualities throughout his life and it had an immense impact on his entire oeuvre.
His paintings between 1950 and 1954 are generally monochromatic. The brushstrokes in the early white and gray paintings from 1950/51 are thin and kept almost invisible, diffusing the entire painting surface. In 1954 Francis began to introduce strong gray notes to give a sharper accent to the edges of the rectangular composition, intensifying the whites. Describing his decision to move towards two-toned works, Francis states: “I start by painting the entire canvas white. As other colors are added, it becomes less intense. I add black to bring back the intensity.” (Buffalo, New York, Albright-Knox Gallery, Sam Francis Paintings: 1947-1972, 1972, p.19) The grays and whites are enormously rich and varied, and range from lighter or darker in hue and tone to areas of pure white. Here, the ethereal golden tones of the lower field seem to be pushing upwards and outwards against the darker mass pushing in from the top and right, as if the gray clouds of early morning are beginning to lift and disperse. The organic shapes lend a life force to the work, invigorating the eye and implying the continuation of space beyond the edge of the canvas.
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