Jasper Johns

Three Flags
1958

Not on view

In 1954, Jasper Johns began painting what would become one of his signature emblems: the American flag. As an iconic image--comparable to the targets, maps, and letters that he also has depicted--Johns realized that the flag was “seen and not looked at, not examined.” The execution and composition of Three Flags elicit close inspection by the viewer. The painting draws attention to the process of its making through Johns’s use of encaustic, a mixture of pigment suspended in warm wax that congeals as each stroke is applied; the resulting accumulation of discrete marks creates a sensuous, almost sculptural surface. The work’s structural arrangement adds to its complexity. The trio of flags—each successively diminished in scale by about twenty-five percent—projects outward, contradicting classical perspective, in which objects appear to recede from the viewer’s vantage point. By shifting the visual emphasis from the flag’s emblematic meaning to the geometric patterns and variegated texture of the picture surface and the canvas structure, Johns explores the boundary between abstraction and representation. As he remarked, this painting allowed him to “go beyond the limits of the flag, and to have different canvas space.”

Artist
Jasper Johns

Title
Three Flags

Date
1958

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Encaustic on canvas

Dimensions
Overall: 30 5/8 × 45 1/2 × 4 5/8 in. (77.8 × 115.6 × 11.7 cm)

Accession number
80.32

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Gilman Foundation, Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura-Lee Whittier Woods, Howard Lipman, and Ed Downe in honor of the Museum's 50th Anniversary

Rights and reproductions information
© Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



Audio

  • Where We Are, Spanish

    Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    750-2—Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    0:00

  • Where We Are, Spanish

    Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    750—Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    0:00

  • Where We Are, Kids, Spanish

    Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    750—Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    0:00

  • Where We Are, Kids

    Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    750—Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    0:00

  • America Is Hard to See

    Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    627—Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

    0:00



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