Jasper Johns

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Jasper Johns, Jr. (* 15. May 1930 in Augusta . Georgia ) is a versatile American painter , sculptor , stage and costume designer. He is considered a pioneer of Pop Art , without his visual work being attributed to this style.

life and work

Jasper Johns studied from fall 1947 to December 1948 at the University of South Carolina , Columbia . From January to June 1949 he spent two semesters at the Parsons School of Design in New York and worked in various odd jobs. He did his military service from May 1951 to the end of 1952 in South Carolina and Japan.

In 1952 he returned to New York and enrolled at Hunter College , but he worked as a bookstore salesman. As a result, friendships began with Robert Rauschenberg , Rachel Rosenthal and the dancer Merce Cunningham . Like Rauschenberg, he belonged to the circle around John Cage , where he implemented his ideas in his art. He assisted Rauschenberg with window dressing and eventually gave up his job in the bookstore to devote himself to painting. He earned his living as a freelance window dresser.

From 1954 he found the typical motifs that are associated with Johns today, such as the targets , the American flag, the map of the United States, the letters and words and the numbers. In 1957 he became acquainted with Leo Castelli , who in 1958 organized a first solo exhibition by Jasper Johns. Alfred Barr bought his first works for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Rauschenberg, Johns and Emile de Antonio produced a John Cage "Retrospective" concert in New York's Town Hall . He made final window decorations for Tiffany .

In the years from 1958 onwards, Jasper Johns exhibited regularly at Leo Castelli, but also gained great popularity in Europe. Castelli's former wife and partner, Ileana Sonnabend exhibited it successfully in Paris in the early 1960s. In the same year he received the Vincent van Volkmer Art Prize. He was represented with works at the Venice Biennale and the documenta in Kassel (1964: documenta III , 1968: 4th documenta , 1972: documenta 5 and 1977: documenta 6 ). In addition to paintings and lithographs , he created sculptural works (such as Painted Bronze , 1960, Museum Ludwig, Cologne) that pretend to be everyday objects such as beer cans or lightbulbs. 1973 developed a collaboration with Samuel Beckett in Paris. Johns created graphics and book designs for Beckett's eight short prose pieces, Fizzles (1977). Repeatedly Johns worked with John Cage and Merce Cunningham and his dance company, designed costumes, sets and posters. In 1973 he was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters , 1984 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and 2007 to the American Philosophical Society . In 2011 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the USA.

Jasper Johns lives in New York and Edisto Beach, South Carolina .


Typical John's works such as Flag (1954/55, Museum of Modern Art , New York ) or Three Flags (1958, Whitney Museum of American Art , New York) were created using a technique specific to John's. The image carrier is primed with a collage of newspaper clippings, a popular image motif is chosen and applied to the image carrier in a combination of oil painting and encaustic (a painting method that goes back to antiquity, in which the pigment is bound with liquid wax). The flowing, but quick-drying wax creates special surface qualities. The collage remains visible through the layers of color.

Like Rauschenberg, Johns is classified as a link between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art . In 1957 he was traded together with other artists in a New York exhibition as "Artist of the New York School, Second Generation". By transferring everyday motifs that are familiar to every American into the art or gallery context, John's later conceptions by Pop Art artists such as Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol anticipated. At the same time, through his more or less withdrawn, but fundamentally gestural, spontaneous painterly style, he remains connected to the Abstract Expressionists who preceded him, such as Willem de Kooning or Franz Kline .

Jasper Johns on the art market

Paintings and graphics by Jasper Johns usually reach top prices at auctions, and the number is rising. Flag , first exhibited at Castelli in 1955, sold for over $ 28 million at Christie's . 1983 Flag sold for just over $ 36 million at Sotheby’s in 2014. In 2008, the False Start painting also fetched $ 80 million at Christie's, the highest auction price ever for a Jasper Johns painting. On a 2013 list of Most Expensive Living Artists, based on Skate's Art Market Research , it was ranked 3rd behind Gerhard Richter and Jeff Koons .

Exhibitions (selection)


  • Gerhard Bott (Hrsg.): Pictorial forms of expression. 1960–1970, Karl Ströher collection in the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt. Darmstadt 1970, p. 174
  • Jasper Johns . Foreword by Leo Castelli. Brandstätter, Munich / Vienna 1998
  • Jeffery Weiss (with contributions by John Elderfield, Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Robert Morris and Kathryn A. Tuma): Jasper Johns. An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965. Prestel, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-7913-3820-0
  • Jasper Johns: "Aim for maximum difficulty in determining what happened." Interviews, statements, sketchbook notes , ed. by Gregor Stemmrich, translated by Michael Mundhenk . Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1997.


  • Rick Tejada-Flores: Jasper Johns - Ideas in paint , documentation 56 min., Arthaus Musik GmbH 2006, ISBN 3-939873-03-9
  • Guest Appearance at The Simpsons / Episode: Surprise for Springfield

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Vincent van Volkmer Art Prize. Retrieved August 22, 2019 .
  2. Member History: Jasper Johns. American Philosophical Society, accessed October 14, 2018 (English, with biography).
  3. Christie's / Jasper Johns , accessed May 2, 2017.
  4. ^ Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 09221 , accessed May 2, 2017.
  5. The New York Times October 12, 2006, accessed May 2, 2017
  6. The Most Expensive Living Artists, 2013 , accessed May 2, 2017.