Lot 110
  • 110

Sam Francis

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
185,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Sam Francis
  • Composition White on Blue
  • egg tempera on paper


Galerie d'Arte Galatea, Turin
Gimpel Fils, London
Eric Estorick Collection, London
Grosvenor Gallery, London
Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired from the above in 1965)
Thence by descent to the present owner

Catalogue Note

Composition White on Blue, which has remained in private hands for half a century, is a remarkable example from Sam Francis’ celebrated blue period. Starting in 1960 when he had just returned, weakened, from a trying round the world trip, the blue phase of his practice was a prolific time of creative production when the convalescing artist exclusively painted in a palette of healing blue shades. Across the chromatic spectrum, this colour has always been of critical significance to Francis and would remain so during the rest of his career. He considered this polyvalent hue to be ‘Celestial’, the ‘Mother liquid’ or ‘Matrix’, charged with a cognitive potential unmatched by other colours which enables the onlooker to transcend all earthly associations in favour of contemplation and meditation.

On the cusp between his highly dynamic splashed paintings of the late 1950s and his celebrated ‘Blue Balls’ series of the early 1960s, in which ethereal shapes of blue wash seem softly blown towards the edges of the composition, Composition White on Blue contains elements of both outstanding chapters from Francis’s artistic output. In the present work patches of matte ultramarine coalesce with swathes of vibrant sapphire, while evanescent swirls of washed-down powder blue soften the otherwise stark edges of the bold geometric pattern. Contrasting with these controlled compositional elements, freely-flung drips of pigment trickle down the paper displaying triumphant bravado reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, but forego their thickly impastoed all-over application in favour of delicate rhizomatic webs of clear diluted pigment.

A lesson in balance, Composition White on Blue is a distinguished embodiment of what is arguably one of Sam Francis’s most important periods, and stands out amongst the other works from the 1960-1963 ‘blue phase’ by successfully uniting, thus rendering void, the original schism between dynamic chaos and infinite serenity.