A second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Sam Francis was one of the most dedicated and prolific printmakers of his time. Working in lithography, etching, and screenprint, he completed more than five hundred editions as well as hundreds of monotypes. In 1970 he opened his own print workshop, The Litho Shop, in Santa Monica, which allowed him to experiment as freely as his interests dictated, and also to support projects of other printmakers, enabling them to share in his experience and technical expertise.
Francis brought a worldly and intellectual spirit to his art. Although he eventually settled in California, he traveled widely and lived for extended periods of time in France, Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. From these locales he absorbed aesthetic and cultural ideas, as evidenced by his diverse artistic inspirations, including Henri Matisse, Dada and Surrealism, Eastern philosophy and religion, and the psychoanalytic theories of Carl Jung.
In both his paintings and his prints, Francis remained a steadfast abstractionist. Working in a spontaneous, unpremeditated fashion, he created on a large scale in a vivid palette using a personal vocabulary of biomorphic forms, loose brushstrokes, and an astounding variety of drips and splatters, some controlled and some left to chance. Francis worked at most major American and international print workshops: Universal Limited Art Editions, whose founder, Tatyana Grosman, first introduced Francis to lithography in 1959; Emil Matthieu in Zurich; Tamarind Lithography Workshop; and Gemini G.E.L., where he made the greatest number of prints, more than sixty. Benefiting from his ongoing collaboration with various master printers at each of these venues, Francis exploited the possibilities inherent in the color printmaking process, in which each color must be printed from a separate stone or plate. He often created compositions by varying the order in which matrices were printed, or recombining different ones to make new images.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 148.