'Red Spot', an early work by the American artist Sam Francis, requires contemplative observation. It does not depict, but describes the life of colour and form, of light and darkness. The drawing was created in Paris in 1953 and shows Francis' typical pictorial structure of rampant patches of colour in the style of similar paintings from those years. It is a predominantly black but lively spatial structure of densely hovering forms which reach out beyond the edge of the picture and thus evoke the idea of uninterrupted infinity. The dynamism of the composition, which at first sight seems almost monochrome, becomes evident and tangible through the red spot glowing on the upper edge of the painting. This coloured zone, along with the understated orange and traces of blue which emerge in other places, actively reference the offset layering of Indian ink - the artist had superimposed matt and gloss black in a lively alternation by means of numerous brushstrokes.
Sam Francis grew up on the West Coast of the US and initially studied psychology and medicine. He began to paint while convalescing for a year after surviving a plane crash during service with the US Air Force. In 1950, after studying art at the California School of Fine Arts, Francis was drawn to the exciting atmosphere of 1950s Paris. He worked for a short time at the academy of Fernand Léger, but soon joined the group of young American artists around Jean-Paul Riopelle. They energetically pushed painting to its limits and found new painterly forms of expression in response to the American "all-over" technique of artists such as Jackson Pollock. Francis was particularly influenced in his artistic development by his study of the tradition of French painting, of the early Matisse, of Cézanne and of the late Monet and Bonnard. He combined their colourful approach and ideas of form with the endless expanse of the very different American concept of spaces. In 1952, as an 'American in Paris', Francis took part in the exhibition initiated by Michel Tapié entitled 'Signifiants de l'Informel'.
The painterly consolidation of Francis' early compositions was disrupted after his subsequent encounter with the art and way of thinking of Eastern Asia. It gave way to an open, freer application, so to speak, of paint on surfaces which were left in a light colour, creating pictorial spaces of radiant colourfulness and energy. Ultimately, the entire work of Sam Francis is characterised by an almost poetical wealth of nuances in its treatment of light and colours.
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 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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