Sam Francis United States, 1923-1994

Painting is about the beauty of space and the power of containment.

-Sam Francis


Sam Francis is known for his colorful paintings and prints exploding with splashes, drips, and organic forms. Lithography was the first print technique that Francis embraced in his prolific artistic career. In 1970, he opened the Litho Shop in Santa Monica, California. The Litho Shop was a monumental endeavor, one that showed Francis's commitment to printmaking that few painters had at that time.


As a student of Zen Buddhism, Francis continuously presented his audiences with opposites like the Yin and Yang, or the black and white. Francis believed that proofing first in black would reveal the graphic impact of the image, therefore all of his color lithographs evolved from a black-inked proof. In 1973, Francis began to create black versions of his color prints, a process that would bring his prints full circle. In these prints, the blacks appear warm and cool through the mixing of various colors like green, brown, and purple, adding depth and separation. Francis's lithographs transcend the media in such a way as to fool the viewer. While they might seem spontaneous and immediate, they are actually the product of a labor-intensive process that Francis makes seem effortless.