Red Spot, Sam Francis
Sam Francis
Red Spot
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Sam Francis

Red Spot, 1953

350 x 270 mm
Physical Description
Watercolour and gouache on wove paper
Inventory Number
SG 3360
Object Number
SG 3360 Z
Acquired in 1984
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

'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.

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