Untitled Diptych, 1979
Acrylic on paper mounted on cardboard and stretched around a wood frame by the artist
41 1/4 x 59 1/8 in, 104.7 x 150 cm
(Individual panels 41 1/4 x 29 9/16 in, 104.7 x 75 cm)
Sam Francis began to paint in earnest in 1945 following an injury in a test flight manoeuvre during the Second World War. He quickly adopted the lyrical abstraction of Jackson...
Sam Francis began to paint in earnest in 1945 following an injury in a test flight manoeuvre during the Second World War. He quickly adopted the lyrical abstraction of Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko, and is considered one of the leading second generation of Abstract Expressionists. However, Francis crucially distinguished his work stylistically from his American contemporaries through the influence of his travels through Paris, Japan and Germany.
It was during this time in Paris in the early 1950s that colour became central to Francis’ practice of Action Painting. Much like Joan Mitchell, who also moved to France from the United States, Francis found fresh inspiration and a new release of colour in the work of Monet, Bonnard and Cézanne. Francis described this new sensitivity to the arrangement of colour as: “I prefer to think of colours in relation to each other, rather than just one colour at a time. So, even very small amounts of colour related to large amounts of another have a very curious and mysterious relationship set up the minute you start using colour...” Crucially Francis wove his vibrant palette between blank areas of white paper that were left as an active part of the overall composition. This use of empty space was inspired by Francis’ studies of Zen Buddhism whilst in Japan (1973 – 74) which teaches that the void or absence is inherent in all phenomena.
‘Untitled Diptych’ is a rare example of Francis’ polyptychs on paper from the Grid series of paintings that remains intact as a pair. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Francis’ work was increasingly characterised by a more concerted use of structure, which grounded the mind and body within the foundations of a formal grid. Building upon the radiant splatters and pools of colour in his ‘Fresh Air’ pictures, Francis used a matrix of broad strokes, made first by a wet roller and then by hand or by pouring paints, to create this latticework of architectural forms. Francis described this constructed web as an attempt to “catch little essences of infinity that go floating by”.
Francis’ Grid paintings were often large in scale and lain on the floor for the artist to manoeuvre across the image with his brush. This particular work was mounted on a stretcher directly by the artist using a ‘drum’ technique. Dancing across the paper, Francis created an innate bodily connection to the work, explaining, “for me it became a more complete effort. It’s almost as if I had to swim in the painting myself. Those big ones I put on the floor so I had to walk in the painting and paint from within, not from without and so it becomes another kind of arena for me to work in...”
Sam Francis’ work can be found in major international collections such as Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA, New York; Kunstmuseum, Basel; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Private Collection, France (purchased through Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris)
Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, Sam Francis, October 20 - November 30, 1979
This work is registered by the Sam Francis Foundation under interim identification number SF79-050.