Sam Francis was born June 25, 1923 in San Mateo, California. Francis studied botany, medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Francis served in the United States Air Force during World War II before being injured in a plane crash. While recuperating from his injuries, Francis developed a love for painting.
Early in his career, Francis found a mentor in the Bay Area artist David Park who introduced him to a myriad of artists, and the prevailing artistic trends including the Abstract Expressionists of the fabled New York School. From this group, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Clyfford Still, and William Baziotes were particularly influential for Francis.
Though enmeshed in the dialogue of Abstract Expressionism, Francis was a color sensualist, always honoring his idols Pierre Matisse, Claude Monet, and Pierre Bonnard. After spending time in both Japan and France, the artist returned to California in the 1960's. During the last decades of his career, Francis worked with vibrant colors and large scale, closely associated with Color Field paintings.
In 1952, Francis had his first exhibition at the Galerie du Dragon, Paris and in 1956 was included in the group exhibition, 12 Americans, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Francis's work has been included in numerous museum exhibitions, including a solo exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum, California, a Retrospective at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Sam Francis died November 4, 1994 in Santa Monica, California.