Basel Mural I
Sam Francis (American, 1923-1994)
On View

Born in northern California and a member of the Army Air Corps in World War II, Sam Francis first turned to art when convalescing from a serious spinal injury sustained in training. Bedridden for close to three years, Francis turned to watercolors as therapy before fully committing to painting around 1946, and the qualities of the aqueous medium would inform his painting—even in oil—for the entirety of his career. In 1950 he moved to Paris, his “mother city,” as he referred to it, and established himself as a leading painter of light and color.

While in Paris, Francis worked on a series of large murals, a tradition he viewed as different from painting and one that allowed for greater expanses of space and movement. A result of his new success in this large-scale format was a commission in late 1956 by Arnold Rüdlinger, director of the Basel Kunsthalle and an early champion of Francis’s art. The artist’s task was to paint three murals to be installed in the museum, where they were hung from 1958 to 1964. One of these three impressive canvases, Basel Mural I, was donated by the artist to the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum) in 1967. (see also Basel Mural III Fragment 1 and Fragment 2).


  • Artist Name: Sam Francis (American, 1923-1994)
  • Title: Basel Mural I
  • Date: 1956-58
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 151-3/4 x 237-3/8 in. (385.5 x 602.9 cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist
  • Accession Number: P.1967.24
  • Copyright: © Sam Francis Foundation, California/ Artist Rights Society (ARS), NY

Object Information

Sam Francis, Santa Monica, gift 1967 to;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1967-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 1975.

Documenta III

  • Kassel, Germany, 1964-01-01 to 1964-12-31

New American Painting

  • Kunsthalle Basel, 1958-01-01 to 1964-12-31

Sam Francis Paintings 1947-1972

  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1972-09-11 to 1972-10-15
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1972-11-01 to 1972-11-30
  • Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1973-02-07 to 1973-03-25
  • Oakland Museum, 1973-06-11 to 1973-08-05
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, 1972-12-10 to 1973-01-14

Sam Francis, 'Les Annees Francaise'

  • Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeru de Paume, 1995-12-12 to 1996-02-23

Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990

Images of an Era

  • Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, Calif.), 1996-07-10 to 1997-06-29


  • Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, Calif.), 1998-04-13 to 1999-02-21

American Art of the 1950s and 1960s from the Collection of the Norton Simon Museum

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988-08-11 to 1994-04-03

Permanent and Loan Collection, 1973

  • Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, 1973-01-30 to 1973-12-31
  • Los Angeles Times, Part V p. A
  • Documenta III, Kassel '64, 1964, pp. 226-226
  • Buck, Robert T., Sam Francis Paintings 1947-1972, 1972, no. 38 pp. 83
  • Selz, Peter, Sam Francis, 1982, pl. 20 pp. 53-60
  • De Chassey, Eric, Beaux Arts Magazine, 1995, pp. 69-71
  • Sam Francis, les années parisiennes 1950-1961, 1995, pp. 8, 20, 21, 83
  • The Contemporary, 1996, p. 8
  • Agee, William C., Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990, 1999, fig. 35, pl. 29 pp. 36, 82
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Basel Mural III, Fragment 1 Sam Francis 1956-58
Basel Mural III, Fragment 2 Sam Francis 1956-58
Blue Cut Sail Sam Francis 1969

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