Contemporary Art Online | New York

Contemporary Art Online | New York

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 110. SAM FRANCIS | UNTITLED.

Property from the Gollin Family Trust


Lot Closed

December 6, 05:10 PM GMT


30,000 - 40,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from the Gollin Family Trust


1923 - 1994


signed and dated 1950 Paris on the reverse

oil on canvas

13¾ by 10⅝ in. (34.9 by 26.9 cm.)

This work is identified with the interim identification number of SFP50.18 in consideration for the forthcoming addendum to the Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings. This information is subject to change as scholarship continues by the Sam Francis Foundation.

Collection of Pat and Norman Gollin (acquired directly from the artist)

Thence by the descent to the present owner

In 1950, after completing a Master of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkley, Sam Francis used his GI Bill to move to Paris and pursue his career as a painter. Prior to his artistic endeavors, Francis studied pre-med and then served two years in the United States Air Force as a pilot during World War II. After a plane crash, Francis suffered a serious spinal injury which kept him hospitalized for several years. It was during his stint in the hospital that he fell in love with painting and used it as a therapeutic escape from the painstaking hours spent in bed. 

James Johnson Sweeney recalls, “He had never been interested in painting. But when the tedium of long months on his back began to dull his appetite for reading and generally discourage him, as a therapeutic venture he was given a box of watercolors…As he explained to me, the world he knew from the flat of his back on his hospital cot was the play of light on the ceiling, the dawn sky and sunset sky effects over the Pacific, when his cot was wheeled out on the hospital balcony. What most interested him, as he has said, was the quality of light itself, “…not just the play of light, but the substance of which light is made.” (James Johnson Sweeney, Exh. Cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Sam Francis, 1967.) 

In Paris, Francis quickly became friendly with many other players in the French art scene of the time including Jean-Paul Riopelle, Karel Appel and Pierre Alechinsky among others. He lived in a quaint apartment, which doubled as his studio, in the Hotel de Seine where many other artists and creative individuals resided. Pat and Norman Gollin, both artists from California, shared a wall with Francis in the Hotel de Seine and recall fond memories of meals, travel and shared inspiration all while struggling to make ends meet as up-and-coming artists. They admired his creative vision, technical skill and spoke admiringly of his presence. William C. Agee writes, “To many of his friends and associates, Francis seemed larger than life. Possessed of boundless curiosity and energy, accessible and generous, he loved to be surrounded by a legion of people, so much so that his existence often verged upon chaos, which he seemed to welcome and even thrive upon.” (William C. Agee, Sam Francis: Paintings: 1947- 1990, Los Angeles 1999, p. 10)

Subsequently, Francis gifted two paintings to Pat and Norman during their time as next-door neighbors. This work, along with the second Untitled, were particularly special to Francis as he began working on both paintings in California during his recovery and brought them to Paris to continue working on them. Given the experimental nature of Francis’ work at this time, there are few remaining early works in existence today. As evidenced by the rich texture and paint layer, these works were revisited several times. They exemplify his interest in light dating back to his days in the hospital bed and traveled with him on his early journey into becoming a painter.