Lot 11
  • 11

Sam Francis

bidding is closed


  • Sam Francis
  • Untitled
  • corten steel
  • 194.5 by 142.9 by 49.5cm.
  • 76 1/2 by 56 1/4 by 19 1/2 in.


Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Untitled is a superb and rare example of Sam Francis’ investigation into the possibilities of three-dimensional art. Known primarily for his boldly coloured and gestural paintings, Francis made his first foray into sculpture in the mid-1960s; this coincided with his decision to spend an increasing amount of time in Japan, a country with which he felt a natural affinity. For this initial experimentation with three-dimensional form Francis created a group of ceramic wall pieces, followed by four free-standing ceramic sculptures the next year. Francis had first visited Tokyo in 1957, and grew increasingly fascinated by the culture and philosophy of the country over the following years. The impact of these extended stays in the East can be seen in the fluid contours and curves of Untitled, which recalls the elegant forms of Japanese calligraphy with its flowing and graceful lines.

Susan Einstein has discussed the significance of the artist’s inclination towards Eastern philosophy: ‘Francis later became interested in Eastern thought and in the spirit of Zen. The writer Alan Watts tells us that “Zen artists understand better than any others the value of empty spaces, and in a certain sense what they left out was more important than what they put in.” Francis, especially in his later work, has approached a unification of man and the elements which is essential if one is to achieve Satori’ (S. Einstein, in Peter Selz (ed.), Sam Francis, New York, 1975, p. 128). The concept of Satori – considered one of the first steps on the path to becoming Buddhist – refers to the idea of attaining enlightenment and self-understanding. Within Untitled, the play of the empty fields of space against the contrasting solidity of the steel structure arguably hints at this mental process, reinforcing the importance of intangible, empty space as a powerful vehicle for artistic expression.

Another example of Untitled resides within the gardens of the Huntington Museum in Pasadena.