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Michael Francis Charity Auction

Born in 1922, the artist Michael Francis lived and worked in Chelsea for most of his adult life, despite a rural upbringing in Hampshire.

In 1941, at the age of 19, Francis entered the RAF and was to serve until 1945 as a Spitfire pilot. His experiences during this time were to shape him and to mould his attitudes and opinions for the rest of his life. He would always feel a sense of camaraderie with those with whom he had fought and yet, for conflict itself, he was left with a bitter distaste.

Pre-war, the young Francis had drawn and painted, producing works which mainly subscribed to an academic, figurative style.  After leaving the RAF, he joined the Slade School of Art and began a period of experimentation with abstraction. He later said ‘One of my main aims has been combining abstract and figurative so that neither loses their power and vigour’ Through this duality of styles he found a voice for the antipathy he felt for war and produced angry, heavy works with elements of collage and realism.

One can detect in these post-war works, a desire to make sense of the destruction and pain of conflict, but gradually, via a ‘Journey of Discovery’, as he termed it, Francis entered a new period of total abstraction, by which he was able to ‘adventure into an unknown world’. His works from this period, such as Red In Balance (PICTURE) brought him acclaim and, in March 1961, he was featured on the front cover of Apollo magazine.

In the early 1970’s Francis moved from his studio in Flood Street to another in Glebe Place, which had formerly belonged to Bernard Hailstone, the English war portraitist, and before him Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

It was whilst working there, and making regular trips to Pietrasanta – where he shared a house with his kind and supportive wife, Jo – that Francis’ work developed into a mature style. Inspired by the Futurists, and Gino Severini in particular, he turned his attention to finding ‘new shapes to express (his) sensations’ and in doing so created work which critic Peter Lewis described as ‘pure geometric shape, constituting the basics of nature’.

A fantastic draughtsman, Francis’ talents were also recognised by Mr Young of Young’s Brewery to design a large number of pub signs. Michael Francis died in London in 2009 and was followed shortly after by Jo.

Approximately 40 lots of Francis’s works will be up for sale at Lots Road Auctions on Sunday 30th September. Please keep an eye on lotsroad.com for upcoming details. All proceeds will go to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Michael Francis 'Self- Portrait'

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