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Sam Francis Centennial

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Born in San Mateo in 1923, Sam Francis began his painting career after a serious illness contracted while training in the Army Air Corps left him immobilized in a Northern California hospital for a few years. During this period of recuperation, Francis studied with the artist David Park, who later became a key figure of the Bay Area figurative movement. Painting became, for Francis, a “way back to life.” In the late 1940s, he returned to the University of California, Berkeley to study painting and art history before moving to Paris in 1950, where he remained for twelve years. He first traveled to Japan in 1957 and subsequently spent significant periods of his life there. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Francis was one of the most well-known American artists of his generation in Western Europe and Japan.  

The exhibition highlights Francis’ multifaceted connection to Palo Alto and the Anderson family. Though he was familiar with this area as it was his birthplace, it was not until the early 1970s that Francis began making frequent trips to Palo Alto from his home in Santa Monica to create prints at 3EP, a printing press founded by gallerist Paula Kirkeby, artist Joseph Goldyne, and collector Mary Margaret (Moo) Anderson. In 1986, Francis established his own studio near Stanford University, in a former spray shop for cars that he transformed into a work sanctuary. Francis’ artistic output energized Palo Alto during these decades, and his work became widely represented in local collections.

This exhibition is organized by the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, with research and writing by Emily Chun, PhD candidate in Art History at Stanford. We gratefully acknowledge the lenders and support from the Sam Francis Foundation, museum members, and the Anderson family. We thank Mitchell Johnson, Stefan Kirkeby, Nancy Mozur, Putter Pence, and John Seed for their participation.

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