Life and Times
Jasper Johns was born in Augusta Georgia. When still a child, his family moved to Allendale SC, where he attended school till his late teens. He was keen on drawing and painting from a very young age, saying when just 5 years old that he wanted to be an artist. After school, he continued his education by studying briefly at the University of South Carolina, followed by the Parsons School of Design in New York City
. In the early 1950s he served in the army, being stationed in Japan during the Korean war.
On returning to New York, Johns inadvertently became an instigator for pop art. For he began to choose everyday objects as the subject of his paintings, depicting them in a highly stylized, technically adroit way. This was in stark contrast to the totally deconstructed approach of his contemporary ‘Abstract Expressionists’ like Jackson Pollock
. Famous works from these early years include his Flags
series, and his iconic Maps
theme. Later on, in the early 60s, Johns began adding physical objects into the paintings themselves, creating a diverse collage . Perhaps the most fabulous example of this is Fools House
. (We can surmise that even the artist was satisfied with this work, as he permanently kept it).
Commercially speaking Jasper Johns became successful after a fortuitous set of circumstances. In 1958 gallery owner Leo Castelli visited Robert Rauschenberg’s studio, and noticed several of Johns’ canvases on display. The owner loved Johns’ paintings, and offered him an exhibition on the spot. At the subsequent showing, the Museum of Modern Art purchased three, an acquisition which was much talked about, thus almost instantly making Johns’ work highly collectable and valuable.
In 2006, private collectors Anne and Kenneth Griffin (founder of a Chicago-based hedge fund) bought Johns' False Start
for $80 million, making it the most expensive painting by a living artist.