Francis studied botany, medicine, and psychology at the University of California in Berkeley. During a plane crash in World War II, he suffered severe injuries to the spine, through which he was forced to a long stay in hospitals and clinics. In that time he came into contact with painting and he decided that that was what he wanted to do. After recovering, he began studying art history and fine art. During that time he was particularly influenced by the abstract expressionists Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky, and especially by Clyfford Still. He became famous for his technique of mixing colors in different rivulets on the painting ground, which then intermingled into sometimes large paint specks. His trip around the world took him to Japan, amongst other places, which is where he commissioned his first large-format mural. His oeuvre has been exhibited worldwide in numerous renowned museums and galleries, most recently in Germany in the Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie Bielefeld, and in the gallery Thomas Modern, Munich. Sam Francis died on November 4, 1994 in Santa Monica, California.