Contemporary Discoveries

Contemporary Discoveries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 27. Untitled.

Property from a Distinguished Japanese Museum Collection

Sam Francis


Lot Closed

March 16, 04:27 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from a Distinguished Japanese Museum Collection

Sam Francis

1923 - 1994


signed Sam Francis (on the overlap); signed Sam Francis (on the stretcher) 

oil on canvas

31½ by 15¾ in.

80 by 40 cm.

Executed circa 1948-50.

Collection of Michel Tapié, Paris

Collection of Madame Tapié de Céleyran, Paris 

Galerie Rampert, Paris

Gallery Ishibashi, Japan

Acquired from the above by the present owner in August 1989

Debra Burchett-Lere, ed., Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings 1946-1994, Berkeley 2011, cat. no. SFF.74, illustrated in color on the DVD

Debra Burchett-Lere, ed., Sam Francis: Online Catalogue Raisonné Project, cat. no. SFP49-21; SFP50-23, illustrated in color

“Color holds feelings.” – Sam Francis

Painted in a restrictive palette of blacks, reds, and whites, and structured by a series of dense, organic shapes that suggest fluidity and movement, Untitled, created between 1948 and 1950, is a rare painting from Sam Francis’ early artistic period in California, when he first began introducing bold fields of color and biomorphic forms into his work. As evidenced by the rich, layered surfaces of the paintings on both sides of this canvas, which appear to interplay with one another, it is clear that Francis revisited the work several times, indicating the special significance of this particular canvas for the artist. Although exhibited and illustrated for years in a vertical format with Francis’ approval, it is conceivable that he originally oriented the front painting horizontally, with the white and red arc along the bottom, as evidenced by the traditional location of the artist’s signature on the reverse (Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946-1994, online).

One of the most important Action Painters to emerge from the United States in the early 1950s, Sam Francis turned to painting following a U.S. Army Air Corps accident in 1944 that left him hospitalized for years. Individual paintings developed between 1948 and 1950, including Untitled – which Francis reworked while receiving formal art training at the University of California, Berkeley – illuminate the profound influence of first-generation Abstract Expressionists Hans Hofmann, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Ed Corbet, Francis’ teacher, who represented the language of American painting at that time, and whose palettes and painterly techniques inspired Francis’ sensibility and sophisticated sense of color during this generative period. Untitled, a spectacular example of Francis’ willingness to experiment with restricted palettes and interactions between darkness and light in his early work, not only anticipates his important monochromes and large-scale paintings from Paris in the 1950s, but also the emergence of his own unique aesthetic vision.