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The Prints Of Sam Francis

The majority of this prolific Californian artist’s iconic Sam Francis prints and paintings were produced in the middle of the 20th century. His brightly coloured, monochrome pieces gave way to the more lively, movement-driven, multifaceted splatter/brush paintings, echoing the aesthetic of his contemporaries, the Abstract Expressionists. His later pieces exposed the white and empty spaces between the painted and coloured margins of the canvas.


The Prints Of Sam Francis | Seal Sail (SF-92) Sam Francis
Seal Sail (SF-92), 1969, Sam Francis


Sam Francis became quite busy in producing lithographs and monotypes between 1970 and 1974. He founded The Litho Shop, Inc. to print and distribute a limited edition of his works since he was so fascinated by the printing process. He created prints that are very comparable to his paintings. Francis used vivid colours and abstract shapes in both mediums, and his fascination with graphic design inspired some of the most avant-garde experiments in fine art editions of his period. The Sam Francis Foundation is now developing a catalogue raisonné of all of his one-of-a-kind works on paper.


The Prints of Sam Francis | Untitled (Poèmes dans le ciel) L – 271 Sam Francis
Untitled (Poèmes dans le ciel) L – 271, 1986, Sam Francis


Lithographs by Sam Francis are renowned for their expressiveness, painterly style, and experimental method. Sam Francis created enormous, vibrant lithographs that have the same spontaneous energy as his other works, and he was as as influential as a printmaker as he was as a painter. Sam Francis founded his own print shop, The Litho Shop, Inc., to create his limited edition lithographs. He occasionally worked with other print studios like Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles. Francis would apply ink to the lithographic limestone, frequently producing brushstrokes, drips, and splatters, exactly like he would with an oil or watercolour, to achieve the painterly effect that his lithographs are renowned for.


Untitled (SF-356) Sam Francis
Untitled (SF-356), 1992, Sam Francis


Aquatints by Sam Francis are renowned for their wide tonal range and poetic study of colour. Sam Francis employed aquatint, an intaglio printmaking method that uses areas of tone rather than thinly etched lines to create his signature style. Francis frequently used sugar-lift and spit-bite to produce aquatints that have a spontaneous and artistic aspect that frequently resembles splatters and brushstrokes. Francis was able to further his passion in texture and colour in this medium. Francis would frequently produce distinctive trial proofs in different colorations because the plates used with this approach can be washed and printed from again. These unique, extremely rare pieces are probably his most underpriced ones.


Tono (SF-37) (L-39) Sam Francis
Tono (SF-37) (L-39), 1963, Sam Francis


The most sought-after graphic works by Sam Francis are his monotypes. Monotypes are a mix of printmaking and painting that favours individuality over multiplicity; each impression is absolutely distinct. They are both artistic and graphic. Monotypes are treated equally to unique creations, according to the Sam Francis Foundation. Applying ink, paint, or dry pigments to a smooth surface produces monotypes. A paper is placed on top and pressed firmly down before the ink or paper has dried. The end product is an impression that can only be reproduced as a print. Sam Francis favoured monotypes because they were thought to be the most impressionistic printmaking technique. He continuously changed the pressure, technique, and pigments he applied throughout the process. These rare and exceptional works are wonderfully layered and colorful and demonstrate the gestural and spontaneous style of art which Francis is known for.


View all prints by Sam Francis.