Sam Francis working at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles, June 1971
Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002
Photographer: Unknown Photographer

Sam Francis was born in California in 1923. He studied botany before serving in World War II, during which he was severely injured in a plane crash. While recuperating in hospital, Francis turned to painting, which in turn led him to experiment with printmaking. He worked with Kenneth Tyler at Gemini GEL in the early 1970s, and created several print series that reflected his influences in Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting.

Francis’s interest in printmaking extended beyond his collaborations at Gemini: he established the Litho Shop, his own print studio, and Lapis Press, which specialised in art books.
Emilie Owens

Further reading


Born San Mateo, California, United States

Studies at University of California, Berkeley with a major in botany

Serves in US Army Air Corps; begins to paint in hospital after a plane crash leaves him with spinal injuries

Included in exhibition, Annual exhibition, at San Francisco Museum of Art, California

Included in exhibition, Annual exhibition, at San Francisco Museum of Art

Receives Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley; included in exhibition, Annual exhibition, at San Francisco Museum of Art

Receives Masters of Arts from University of California, Berkeley; moves to Paris, France; briefly attends Academie Fernand L�ger

First solo exhibition, at Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris; included in exhibition, Signifiants de l. informel,at Studio Paul Faccetti, Paris

Included in exhibitions: Un arte autre, at Studio Paul Facchetti, Paris; Opposing forces, atInstitute of Contemporary Art, London, England

Included in exhibition, Tendances actuelles,atKunsthalle Bern, Switzerland

Included in exhibition, 12 Americans, at Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York

Extensive travels abroad including the United States, Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Italy; completes a mural for the Sogetsu School of Flower Arranging, Tokyo, Japan

Completes Basel mural for Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland; included in exhibition, 50 ans d. art moderne,at Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Moves to New York; travelling solo exhibition originating at Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California; completes mural for Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; included in exhibition, Documenta 2, at Kassel, West Germany; included in Biennial of S�o-Paulo, Brazil

Travels to Japan and Switzerland; solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle, Bern and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden

Moves to Los Angeles, California; maintains studios in Bern, New York, Paris and Tokyo; wins Grand Prize, Third biennale exhibition of prints in Tokyo

Completes six-month residency at Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles

Included in exhibition, Documenta 3, Kassel, West Germany

Completes edition of Untitled at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles; solo exhibition, Sam Francis werke 1962–1966, at Galerie Kornfeld und Klipstein, Bern; included in exhibition, Art of the United States 1670–1966,atWhitney Museum of American Art, New York; Two decades of American painting,atNational Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Retrospective exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1968 �����
Solo exhibition at Centre National d. Art Contemporain, Paris

Solo exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; receives commission for Nationalgalerie, Berlin; establishes The Litho Shop, Los Angeles

Completes residency at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles making editions Spleen (red), Spleen (yellow), Cut throat, Cut throat state I, Yunan, Yunan state I-IV, Speck, White bone; included in Biennial exhibition at Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Travelling retrospective exhibition organised by the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; completes editions of Turn, Red again, Ting, Web, Of vega, Lyre eight, Spun for James Kirsch, Freshet at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles

Completes editions of Coral lyre nine, Five coral screen, Ariel. s ring, Toward disappearance, Burnout, Firewood at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles;moves to Tokyo

Completes editions of Always in and out of need; Straight line of the sun, Pointing to the future, Point and Deft and sudden gain at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles

Included in travelling exhibition, Art in progress,at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

Solo exhibition, Sam Francis: peintures r�centes 1976–1978, at Mus�e Nationale d. Art Moderne, Paris

Travelling retrospective exhibition originating at Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Elected to Board of Trustees of Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; solo exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California

Appointed Commandeur de l. Ordre des Arts et des Lettres; solo exhibition at Fondation Maeght, St Paul-de-Vence, France

Co-founder of Lapis Press, Los Angeles

Completes commission for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; solo exhibition, L. oeuvre de Sam Francis dans les collections du Mus�e Idemitsu, at Pavillon des Arts, Paris

Solo exhibition at Nantenshi Gallery, Tokyo

Travelling exhibition, Sam Francis, originating at Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, Japan

Solo exhibition, Sam Francis Ausstellung: eine retrospective 40 years of friendship 1945–1990, at Galerie Kornfeld, Bern

Solo exhibitions: organised by Museum van der Togt, Amstelveen, the Netherlands; Sam Francis,at Centre R�gional d. Art Contemporain Midi-Pyren�es, Toulouse-Lab�ge, France

Solo exhibition, Sam Francis, at Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, Germany

Retrospective exhibition at University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley

Sam Francis died in Los Angeles, California

Barbara Delano � Tyler Graphics Ltd; revised Kate Buckingham, 2006

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated January 2017