Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member ». Sam Francis lived a life that was made for biography. Born in 1923 in San Mateo, California, the artist now known for his massive, brightly colored abstract canvases taught himself to paint while he was encased for three years in a full-body cast, the result of an acute case of spinal tuberculosis. Over his 50-year, wildly successful career, Francis made over 10,000 artworks, starred in more than 100 solo exhibitions, and, in the late 1950s to mid-1960s, commanded the highest prices of any living painter. Considered by many to be the world’s first truly international artist, Francis lived across three continents, married five times, and executed creative projects across the globe. In addition to his own prolific art practice, he established a publishing company, printing press, holistic medical research center, reforestation program, and a wind energy company that is still in business today. At his death in 1994, Francis left an estate valued at $79 million.