(b San Mateo, Calif., 25 June 1923; d Santa Monica, Calif., 4 Nov. 1994).
American painter, one of the leading second-generation Abstract Expressionists. While serving in the US Army Air Corps he injured his spine in a plane crash and he took up painting in 1944 when he was recovering in hospital. In 1950 he settled in Paris, where he studied under Léger and was friendly with Riopelle and other Art Informel painters; his style was influenced by these artists as well as by Americans such as Jackson Pollock. He visited Japan several times, and the thin texture of his paint, his drip and splash technique, and his asymmetrical balance of colour against powerful voids (he often left areas of canvas blank) have led critics to speak of influences from Japanese traditions of contemplative art. In 1961 Francis returned to his native California, settling first at Santa Barbara and then in Santa Monica. From the mid-1960s the feeling of oriental simplicity in his painting increased, bringing his work into closer affinity with Minimal art. Francis carried out several mural commissions, but he often worked on a small scale in watercolour. He also made lithographs (from 1960) and sculpture (from 1965).