8 x 10"
oil on panel
Jasper Johns was one of the most influential American painters of the 20th century who produced over 40 versions of the American flag. Johns created the first, Flag, in 1954 at the age of 24, two years after he was discharged from the Army.
To give you some context, the US flag was often the news headline in 1954 - then President Dwight Eisenhower signed an amendment to the pledge of allegiance on Flag Day to add the words 'under God', the McCarthy hearings took place three days after Flag Day, the year was the 175th anniversary of the birthday of Francis Scott Key, who composed The Star Spangled Banner. The Iowa Jima Marine Memorial was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery. Johns and his father were both named after Sgt. William Jasper who saved the fallen flag of the Americans in the Revolutionary War. And in 1954, our country had 48 states - the 49th and 50th, Alaska and Hawaii, would join the United States of America in 1959.
To appreciate Johns' Flag, you must get close up. It is made using oil paints, encaustic (wax mixed with pigment) and newsprint, which is visible under the red and white stripes. There is no hidden meaning in the texts of the newsprint, purposely Johns selected non-political or national news. Jasper Johns aimed to paint 'things the mind already knows', relieving him of creating new design and focusing on the execution instead.
The painting was exhibited in Johns' first solo show in 1958 where the director of the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr, wanted to buy it but was worried how it may look so he persuaded a friend to buy it instead, and he donated it to the museum in honor of Barr when he retired.
Please click here for a larger view.