* 1904 Frankfurt am Main
† 1998 Paris
Francis Bott was born in Frankfurt am Main on 8 March 1904. After a childhood and adolescence spent in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Holland, Bott became an artist in the 1930s but not until he had spent some years as a vagabond with left-wing political leanings in Berlin, the US, Mexico and Vienna, earning a living by busking (singing and pantomime) and doing minor art works. Francis Bott sympathised with the Communist Party so he went to Prague in 1933. After a brief stint of fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, Bott went to Paris in 1937 and joined the anti-Fascist resistance in the South of France. France remained his adopted country after 1945; until just before he died, Bott had a studio on Montparnasse although he spent most of his time working in the Ticino from 1970. Starting in summer term 1962, Francis Bott was a guest lecturer for three terms at the Hamburg Art Academy. From the 1960s Bott's work was shown at galleries throughout Europe. Francis Bott died in Lugano on 7 November 1998 at the age of ninety.
Francis Bott's work oscillates between two poles: surreal and fantastic on the one hand, and representational and geometric abstract on the other. Bott became aware of Surrealism in 1937 and Francis Picabia became a close friend and mentor. In 1948, however, Bott turned to abstraction, which enabled him to render his absolute urge for freedom and independence in visual terms. Typical of Francis Bott's work is his exploration of the possibilities of form and colour in experimental serial form. Painting, including glass painting, is a focal point of his work. Both versatile and prolific, Francis Bott has also produced drawings, watercolours, gouaches, sculpture and objects and has done stage design.