Sam Francis

San Francisco Examiner

First comprehensive biography of California painter Sam Francis

Gabrielle Selz comes by her art world chops honestly. Her father, Peter Selz, was the founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum and the former curator of painting and sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She wrote about growing up in the world — and the aftermath of his divorce from her mother, Thalia Selz — in her 2014 memoir, “Unstill Life: A Daughter’s Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction.”
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Artist Sam Francis Gets His First Comprehensive Biography

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.
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Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis

Out today, Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis is the first in-depth biography of Sam Francis, the legendary American abstract painter who broke all the rules in his personal and artistic life. The following passage is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Light on Fire: The...

Color and Light: The Life and Work of Bay Area Artist Sam Francis

Many artists take creative inspiration from their surroundings. For the late abstract expressionist Sam Francis, even subtle variations in the light in different parts of the world affected his work. The Bay Area native, who was born in San Mateo in 1923, lived and worked around the globe, from Paris and Tokyo to New York City and Santa Monica, before finally returning home to the Bay Area to settle in Marin County several years before he died in 1994. His colorful acrylic canvases and watercolor works on paper garnered him international acclaim, and now fetch anywhere from $60,000 to well into the seven figures — and his larger-than-life personality made him a legendary figure in the art world. “He was the first artist in California who was internationally regarded, and his collections have been shown at museums all over Europe and Japan,” says Debra Burchett-Lere, director of the Sam Francis Foundation.