Francis discovered painting in 1944 while bedridden in hospital, recovering from a plane crash. Upon completing his studies in art and art history in California, he went to Paris where he attended the Académie Léger. Abstraction, executed in 1954, attests to the cardinal influence of Monet, whom Francis discovered in 1953 when the Musée de l’Orangerie reopened its doors. This work is a superb illustration of the transition—hinted at so far by other American painters such as Clyfford Still, Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland—from Abstract Expressionism to a lighter type of painting characterized by broad forms and bright, luminous colours. Exhibited in 1956 at Montreal’s Galerie L’Actuelle, Abstraction was to have a decisive influence on several young Montreal painters, who saw it steer an unprecedented path between Automatisme and Plasticisme. This was a meaningful turn of events, since it was a young painter from Montreal, Riopelle, who in Paris introduced Francis to Parisian art circles and put him in contact with critic Georges Duthuit, “a guide to French culture.” At Duthuit’s house in Provence, Francis’ palette grew lighter. Riopelle also introduced the American artist to Nina Dausset, who gave Francis his first one-man show at her Galerie La Dragonne in 1952.
© Sam Francis Foundation, California / SODRAC, Montreal / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY (2020)