Fleury Logo

The Blue Between the Red and Green | 1960

Until July 22nd 2023

The works created by Sam Francis in the second half of the 1950s testify to his fervent pursuit of pure abstraction. The Blue Between the Red and Green is a masterpiece of this pivotal moment in his career and demonstrates the ultimate expression of his visual lexicon: “a luminous vessel of pure color and light ».

Contact us about this selection

The Blue Between the Red and Green, 1960
Acrylic and gouache on paper
85,8 x 58,7 cm | 33 3/4 x 23 1/16 inches.

Created in 1960, The Blue Between the Red and Green was produced at the peak of the artistic development of Francis’ celebrated career. Often associated with his contemporaries from the New York School, Francis distinguished himself from the Abstract Expressionists by drawing his inspiration from the European Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Fusing the extravagant gestuality of Post-War Abstraction and the chromatic theories of Impressionism, Sam Francis’ astounding works embody his inexhaustible ingenuity.

As soon as he arrived in France, he was exposed to the work of the great masters of French painting such as Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet, colorists celebrated for their mastery of light. Blending these chromatic foundations established by his predecessors with his own singular gestures and expressionistic tones, Sam Francis creates striking works that capture his authentic expressions and pure emotion.

Sam Francis in the Arceuil studio, Paris.

“Paint used generously and put in the service of color and its energy and power to convey deep feelings is the hallmark, from beginning to end, of Francis’s art.”

William C. Agee, in Debra Burchett-Lere, Ed. "Sam Francis, Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings 1946-1994," Berkeley, 2011, p.12-13.

Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux nymphéas, Oil on canvas, 1917-1919, 100 x 200 cm | 39⅜ by 79 in.. Private collection.

Captivated by Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in 1953, Sam Francis was bewitched by these giant canvases with tighter framing, overflowing with misty shapes. In The Blue between the Red and Green, the excessive disproportion of its large majestic paint layers completely invade the work from edge to edge and submerge the viewer in a river of colors.

Separating streams of rubies and emeralds with dazzlingly pure cobalt, Francis cultivates his mastery of the chromatic circle to generate a fiery light within his composition. He manages to keep a careful balance between the colors to ensure the harmony of the work.

Undeniably, this tripartite composition of The Blue Between the Red and Green, is a eulogy to color. The explosion of scarlet red, azure blue and electric green is exalted and bubbles on the surface of the work. Generous and daring in his application of acrylic, Francis nevertheless reinforces the luminosity of his work by letting the white of the paper shine through. Like sparkling reflections on water, it adds a new dimension of unexpected depth to the work.

Moved by lively and rapid brushstrokes, Francis’ layers of paint suggest a fluid and frenetic gesture. He embellishes this tumultuous sea with fine vermilion splashes that spring up throughout the composition, thus letting spontaneity and chance complete his work. It is this famous gestural expressiveness, executed in two stages, that sets Sam Francis apart from his contemporaries.

Sam Francis, The Blue between the Red and Green, details, 1960

“I dreamed of an ocean. A huge sea was rising and spreading over the land, swallowing up everything.”

Sam Francis (Peter Selz, Sam Francis, New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1975, p13.)

It was also in the 1960s that the artist started experimenting with the full range of ultramarine blue, a color so pure and so revered, to end up with his famous “Blue Balls” series. The unique cobalt pigment represented on the paper is exploited in several shades, without however losing its purity. Indeed, Francis does not add other colors, but simply dilutes the paint with water in order to manipulate it thanks to the air once placed on the paper.

Sam Francis possesses a disconcerting ability to combine solid colors and specks of paint to create striking multidimensional compositions. Throughout his international career, Francis has remained faithful to his singular abstraction which has allowed him to establish himself as one of the most referenced abstract artists of the 20th century.


Sam Francis, « In Lovely Blueness »

September 12th 2023

Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

Echoing Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, on September 12, 2023, the Musée de l’Orangerie presented Sam Francis’ very large-format In Lovely Blueness, on a three-year loan from the Musée National d’Art Moderne / Centre de Création Industrielle, to which it had been donated in 1977 by the Scaler Foundation with contributions from Éric and Sylvie Boissonnas. […]

Sam Francis, « In Lovely Blueness »

Receive news from the gallery

Sign up