Samuel Lewis Francis (June 25, 1923 – November 4, 1994) was an American painter and printmaker.Sam Francis was born in San Mateo, California, the son of Katherine Lewis Francis and Samuel Augustus Francis Sr. The 1935 death of his mother, who had encouraged his interest in music affected him deeply, but he later developed a strong bond with his stepmother, Virginia Peterson Francis.Francis was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. His loose style was most influenced by the work of Jackson Pollock. He later became loosely associated with a second generation of abstract expressionists, including Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, who were increasingly interested in the expressive use of color.His paintings of the 1950s evolved through a series of stages, beginning with monochromatic abstractions, followed by larger richly colored murals and "open" paintings that feature large areas of whiteness. After his 1953 painting "Big Red" was included in the 1956 exhibition "Twelve Artists" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Francis began a rapid rise to international prominence. By 1973–4 many of Francis' paintings featured a formal grid or matrix made up of crossing tracks of color. Many of these matrix works were large in scale, measuring up to twenty feet long.After 1980 the formal structure of the grid gradually disappeared from Francis' work. He was extremely active as a printmaker, creating numerous etchings, lithographs and monotypes, many of which were executed in Santa Monica at the Litho Shop, which Francis owned.During the last year of his life, suffering from prostate cancer and unable to paint with his right hand after a fall, in a final burst of energy he used his left hand to complete a dazzling series of about 150 small paintings before he died. He died in Santa Monica and was buried in Olema, in Marin County, California.
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