Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis

Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis

by Gabrielle Selz
Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis

Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis

by Gabrielle Selz

Hardcover(First Edition)

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The first in-depth biography of Sam Francis, the legendary American abstract painter who broke all the rules in his personal and artistic life.

Light on Fire is the first comprehensive biography of Sam Francis, one of the most important American abstract artists of the twentieth century. Based on Gabrielle Selz’s unprecedented access to Francis’s files, as well as private correspondence and hundreds of interviews, this book traces the extraordinary and ultimately tragic journey of a complex and charismatic artist who first learned to paint as a former air-corps pilot encased for three years in a full-body cast. While still a young man, Francis saw his color-saturated paintings fetch the highest prices of any living artist. His restless desire resulted in five marriages and homes on three continents; his entrepreneurial spirit led to founding a museum, a publishing company, a reforestation program and several nonprofits. Light on Fire captures the art, life, personality, and talent of a man whom the art historian and museum director William C. Agee described as a rare artist participating in the “visionary reconstruction of art history,” defying creative boundaries among the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning. With settings from World War II San Francisco to postwar Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Los Angeles, Selz crafts an intimate portrait of a man who sought to resolve in art the contradictions he couldn’t resolve in life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520310711
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 10/19/2021
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 535,111
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Gabrielle Selz is the award-winning author of Unstill Life: A Daughter’s Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction. Her articles have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.

Table of Contents


Part I 1923–1950
Color is light on fire
1. Traumatic Beginnings
2. First Love, First Muse
3. An Unexpected Battle
4. The Keys to the Kingdom
5. A First Coalescence

Part II 1950–1956
Paris was the psychic mother of me
6. A Tiny Room at the Hôtel de Seine
7. Ambition and Lies
8. I Paint Time
9. A Homecoming of Joy and Anguish

Part III 1956–1962
Go as far as you can as fast as you can
10. Wanderlust
11. Feverish Intensity 
12. An Internationalist in New York 
13. I Am a Seismograph 
14. A Dance with Mr. Death

Part IV 1962–1985
I am your change-bearer, I am your instrument of expansion
15. Resurrection 
16. I Love My Desires 
17. The Space at the Center Is Reserved for You
18. The Artist Is His Work and No Longer Human
19. My Consciousness Is an Image
20. Art Is the Heart of the Matter
21. A New Era for Los Angeles
22. My Virtue Is to Be Myself

Part V 1986–1994
I am steering by the torch of chaos and doubt
23. Don't Be Sorry for Nothing 
24. Death Is a Curve in Harmony with Life

Notes on Sources
Illustration Credits
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