SAM FRANCIS | Untitled



signed and dated 1957 on the reverse
watercolor and gouache on paper
22 by 29½ in. 55.9 by 74.9 cm.

This work is identified with the interim identification number of SFR.8 in consideration for the forthcoming Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Unique Works on Paper. This information is subject to change as scholarship continues by the Sam Francis Foundation.

Price Available Upon Request

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Galerie Peter von Ariel or Mathias Fels, Paris
Collection of Stig Nordström, Halmstad, Sweden
Collection of Gerard Bonnier, Stockholm (acquired from the above circa 1976)
Stockholms Auktionsverk, Stockholm, October 22, 2014, lot 744
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale

"The floating, the falling (helped by rivulets of color allowed to drop down), the gratuitous meetings in space, the junctures and coincidences which Francis is best equipped to express are endowed with a magic in watercolors that the oils do not possess." - Dore Ashton in Peter Selz, Sam Francis, New York 1975, p. 73

Sam Francis’ lyrical Untitled is an exceptional example of the artist's output at the height of his career. The gouache’s yellows and maroon, ochres and deep blacks are tinged with subtleties of orange and hints of red that brings one deeper and deeper into the work. Executed in 1957, after the artist had completed two trips around the world that brought him from California to Paris, New York to Japan, Untitled is a mastery of color and place. Layering nearly translucent areas of watercolor with more thickly applied gouache, the color in Untitled jumps from itself to the starkness of the untouched white sheet. The expanses of color are exacerbated by the vastness of the negative space with the cascading color.

While in Tokyo in 1957, Francis lived and worked in a temple, observing the lessons of traditional Japanese haboku, or flung-ink painting, as well as ikebana, the art of flower arrangement. Both studies are evident in Untitled, where the gestural color freely falls down the vertical expanse of the work, into a world unknown. The notion of the void—Central to East Asian culture—is expressed clearly here. Francis’ establishment of a permanent studio in Japan stands as a further testament to the importance of Japanese traditions as a paramount influence on the artist’s practice. In fusing both Eastern and Western cultures in Francis' magnificent body of work, Peter Selz explains: "He reflects on the symbolism of white as the imperial color of magnificence and nobility, as the color of Great Jove, the albatross, and the veil of Christianity's deity, but he also notes that it is the color of evil, transcendent horror, and great panic, the shroud of death and the fog of ghosts" (Peter Selz, Sam Francis, New York 1982, p. 62).

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