Flag by Jasper Johns

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March 5, 2014Western2 Comments

Flags by Jasper Johns

Flag by Jasper Johns

Painting NameFlag
Painter NameJasper Johns
Completion Date1954
Place of CreationUSA
Size42 1/4 x 60 5/8" (107.3 x 153.8 cm)
TechniqueCollage, Encaustic, Oil
MaterialFabric Mounted on Plywood
Current LocationPrivate collection

Flag is a painting made by the American soldier at the age of 24 when he got discharged from the American army around 1953. During the time he saw a dream of American flag and was inspired to make the painting out of it. To depict it, he used oil, encausitc and collage of old American newspapers. He chose the cuttings of newspaper deliberately with political or national headlines. Those prints are still visible in the final painting.

In March 2010, the painting was sold for $110 million entering in the list of most expensive paintings and also making his other works valuable as well.

Flag Analysis

The American flag depicted here is the predecessor of the current version. Alaska and Hawaii got their statehood in around 1959 and thus  there was a need to make a new design (as the stars represents the states, the original flag had 13 stars).

When Jasper Johns made this painting, there were only 48 states and thus it also represents 48 stars as well as the pattern of the old flag. The painting is so identical to the real one that even today critics are confused to decide whether it is a flag’s painting or a painted flag.

Well, the number of stripes remains the same in the respect to the original states.

The colors aren’t as much bright or close to the real flag. Due to the use of oil paint and encaustic colors, the tint has got toned down or dull in comparison of the real flag. That’s one more property which distinguishes the painting from the official one. Another being the use of collage.

Jasper Johns’s oeuvre mainly comprises of different versions of American flags (there are painting with other themes too). Thus, we can assume that this art piece is an ex-army officer’s expression of patriotic emotions.


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2 Responses to “Flag by Jasper Johns”
  1. cgfrew

    Jasper Johns’ work was primarily with symbols and signs, and working with creating meaning through repurposing of existent languages. The flag paintings were some of his first pieces dealing w/ symbol. Though his stationing in the military probably affected him no less than anyone else, there is little evidence supporting the idea that his Flag painting was an autobiographical one, and not focused on language and symbol. And his paintings were “sensually painted”, as Cage states, but they were not emotional in the standard sense. Do you have any sources?

  2. magelanz

    “The painting is so symmetrical to the real one that even today critics are confused to decide whether it is a flag’s painting or a painted flag.”

    I think you mean “identical”, not symmetrical. The flag is not symmetrical either horizontally or vertically. And critics can’t tell his painting from a real flag? Seriously?

    “Well, the number of stripes remains the same in the respect to the original states.

    That was important enough to be its own paragraph?”

    “Jasper Johns’s oeuvre mainly comprises of different versions of American flags only. That was his only theme in his artistic career. Thus, we can assume that this art piece is an ex-army officer’s expression of patriotic emotions.”

    Did you do any research into his work? If I were to pick one theme in his artistic career, it would probably be “repetition”, not “flags”. Did you see his Numbers paintings?

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