Blue Balls, Sam Francis
Sam Francis
Blue Balls
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Sam Francis

Blue Balls, 1961

503 x 651 mm
Physical Description
Watercolour on wove paper
Inventory Number
Object Number
17890 Z
Acquired in 2019 as a bequest from Ulrike Crespo from the Karl Ströher Collection
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

After his encounter with East Asian culture, Sam Francis departed from the painterly concentration of his earlier compositions in favour of an open, virtually liberated application of the medium. He introduced individual highlights in watercolour with a soft brush or sprayed it onto the paper. The rhythmic colour progressions of varying density and the tension-charged juxtapositions with blank areas produce vibrating pictorial spaces that fairly burst with colour and energy.

About the Acquisition

The Städel Museum has the photographer, psychotherapist, philanthropist, and long-time Frankfurt resident Ulrike Crespo (1950–2019) to thank for more than ninety works ranging from classical modernism to American pop art. The paintings, drawings, and prints by Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Dix, Oskar Schlemmer, Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, Cy Twombly, and others originally belonged to the holdings of her grandfather, the Darmstadt-based industrialist Karl Ströher (1890–1977), who amassed an extensive art collection after World War II.

Work Data

Basic Information

Blue Balls
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Watercolour on wove paper
Geographic Reference
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Verso signiert, datiert und bezeichnet oben rechts (mit der Feder in Schwarz): Sam Francis / 1961 Bern / Mai
Captions Added Later
Verso nummeriert mittig (mit Bleistift): 33 [unterstrichen]; unten links: 44420
  • entlang der rechten Blattkante: BFK RIVES

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
© Sam Francis Foundation, California / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023
Acquired in 2019 as a bequest from Ulrike Crespo from the Karl Ströher Collection

Work Content

Motifs and References



  • 0 Abstract, Non-representational Art
  • 22C4(BLUE) colours, pigments, and paints: blue
  • 49D36 circle (~ planimetry, geometry)
  • 49D32 line (~ planimetry, geometry)
  • 49D43 prism ~ stereometry

Research and Discussion


Object History
Sam Francis (1923-1994)
Klipstein und Kornfeld, Bern
verkauft an Karl Ströher (1890-1977), Darmstadt, 1962
Nachlass Karl Ströher, 1977
an seine Enkelin Ulrike Crespo (1950-2019), Frankfurt am Main
Vermächtnis an das Städelsche Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main, 2019.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.

Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:

  • the type of acquisition and/or the way the object changed hands
  • the owner's name and place of residence
  • the date on which it changed hands

The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.

Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.

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