A DISTINGUISHED SELECTION OF
SAM FRANCIS WORKS FROM AN
EMINENT JAPANESE MUSEUM COLLECTION
Sotheby's is honoured to present Lots 520 to 528, an exquisite selection of nine works by Sam Francis spanning over twenty years from the artist's highly acclaimed oeuvre. Serving as a mini retrospective, the carefully assembled collection hails from an eminent private Japanese museum collection and brings together a rare collection of fresh-to-auction works on paper, a canvas work and an acrylic on panel work. Mostly never before exhibited to the public, these works showcase Francis's artistic acumen across mediums whilst also marking different stylistic developments seen in Francis's oeuvre in accordance to the several geographical locations he inhabited.
A Californian by birth, Francis was first influenced by the works of Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko who converged and taught in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1940s. Digesting these stylistic precedents, Francis relocated in 1950 to Paris where he became immersed in the rich mesmerizing colours of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. During this period the critic Arnold Rüdlinger wrote that Francis's works "remind the European of Monet's late period. Let there be no mistake – it is not the semblance of colours and the atmosphere that justifies this comparison with Monet, but the miracle that, from an abstract conception, bursts forth the image of a lyrical pantheism to which Monet and Bonnard arrived at by means of the figurative" (Arnold Rüdlinger in Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Culturel Américain, Sam Francis, Shirley Jaffe, Kimber Smith, 1958, n.p.). It was also during this time that the first artists from China and Japan congregated in Paris in the early 1950s, including Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun, Imai Toshimitsu, Domoto Hisao. Deeply intrigued by Asian philosophies, Francis adapted his style in the mid-1950s to introduce large areas of white, creating an airiness and lightness that breaks up his earlier grid-like all-over compositions of colour.
Noting the East Asian sensibilities in Francis's work, James Johnson Sweeney wrote in a catalogue in 1967 that Francis was "the most sensuous and sensitive American painter of his generation" (James Johnson Sweeney in Exh. Cat., Houston, Museum of Fine Arts (and travelling), Sam Francis, 1967, p. 21). In a career spanning half a century and three continents, Francis charted his own course through the global landscape of abstraction, creating a corpus that is at once a synthesis of diverse inspirations and a deeply personal endeavour toward self-discovery. Francis's works are housed in eminent international museum collections such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the MoMA and Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland, among others.