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Sam Francis: The Artist’s Materials

  • Debra Burchett-Lere and Aneta Zebala

    American artist Sam Francis (1923–1994) brought vivid color and emotional intensity to Abstract Expressionism. He was described as the “most sensuous and sensitive painter of his generation” by former Guggenheim Museum director James Johnson Sweeney. Francis’s works, whether intimate or monumental in scale, make indelible impressions; the intention of the artist was to make them felt as much as seen. 

    At the age of twenty, Francis was hospitalized for spinal tuberculosis and spent three years virtually immobilized in a body cast. For physical therapy he was given a set of watercolors, and, as he described it, he painted his way back to life. The exuberant color and expression in his paintings celebrated his survival; his five-decade career was an energetic visual exploration that took him around the world.

    Francis’s idiosyncratic painting practices have long been the subject of speculation and debate among conservators and art historians. Presented here for the first time in this volume are the results of an in-depth scientific study of more than forty paintings, which reveal new information about his creative process. The data provides a key to the complicated evolution of the artist’s work and informs original art historical interpretations. 

    Debra Burchett-Lere, author and curator, is executive director of the Sam Francis Foundation. She has organized numerous exhibitions and publications on the artist and is editor of Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946–1994. Aneta Zebala, conservator and author, is founder of Zebala & Partners. She is also a conservator for the Sam Francis Foundation and a contributor to Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946–1994

    “This book is enhanced by each author’s knowledge of the artist and their experience working at the Sam Francis Foundation: Zebala as long-time conservator and Burchett-Lere as Executive Director. Their different fields complement, harness and strengthen the backbone of their research into this major American painter.”
    —Rachel Barker and Persi Darukhanawala, The Burlington Magazine

    “Highly recommended for both art history and conservation students. . . . What makes this book special is the way it presents this alchemy between science and poetry.”
    —Flavia Parisi, Journal of the Institute of Conservation

    “The book is full of information about Francis’ non-traditional working methods at a time of explosive innovations in the paint industry during the second half of the 20th century; it gives invaluable advice to conservators, art historians, curators, collectors, art dealers, and artists.”
    —The International Institute for Conservation’s News in Conservation

    Sam Francis: The Artist’s Materials, a vivid and engaging book, is testament to the specialized material and process-based research collaboratively undertaken by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Sam Francis Foundation.”

    168 pages 
    7 1/2 x 10 inches
    98 color and 18 b/w illustrations
    ISBN 978-1-60606-583-9

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute
    Series: The Artist's Materials