Sam Francis - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 17, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist, in 1949
    Ubu Gallery, New York & Galerie Berinson, Berlin
    Private Collection, Padua, Italy

  • Catalogue Essay

    Sam Francis’ legendary belief in the healing power of art stems from his stay at a hospital following a plane crash in World War II. Though it would be years before we would see Francis embark upon the enormous-scaled Blue Balls series of the early 1960s (and his mystical devotion to painting), he created myriad canvases in the interim year, exploring color with compelling intensity and texture. In addition, Francis was a pioneer of light in visual art, granting chromatic brightness rarely seen to his various coloring. One of the key inspirations for Francis’ work in this period was his environment: in the serenity of California he found his home and muse.

    The present lot, Saraband, 1948-49 comes only a few short years after Francis began his painting career. The title comes from a courtly dance of the late renaissance, giving us clues as how to read Francis’ wondrous patterns of darkness and bright coloring. Francis’ great silver bands seem to form the background of the piece, providing a surface on which both darker and lighter hues perform a rapturous dance. In the upper regions of the picture, we observe flashes of ochre yellow and deep crimson, emerging from the shadows of Francis’ darker, deeper colors of framing. In all, Saraband manages to achieve a visual complexity that lends it a third dimension, its many layers spinning on top of one another in perfect synchrony. In a career that was to bring him to the mountains of Japan to seek inspiration for his work, here we observe Francis as vigorous and youthful, drawing brilliance from his own inner vision.



oil on canvas
32 x 24 in. (81.3 x 61 cm.)
Signed "Sam Francis" lower right; further signed and titled "Sam Francis 'Saraband'" along the stretcher bar.
This work is included in the Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946–1994, with number SFF.54, edited by Debra Burchett-Lere and published by the University of California Press 2011 and alternatively registered with the Sam Francis Foundation under archive number SFP48-019.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 17 May 2013 10am