Flag – Jasper Johns Masterpiece

Jasper Johns - FlagAmerican born, Jasper Johns, painted Flag from 1954 to 1955. This collage on fabric mounted on plywood has long become a staple of 20th century American Art.

“One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag,” Johns said, “and the next morning I got up and I went out and got the materials to begin it.”

Those materials included three canvases that he mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint – a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a quivering surface of lumps and smears.

The legible newspaper scraps beneath the tactile surface – some dating from 1955 and 1956, when Johns repaired the painting – lend the timeless, public icon historical specificity. While this image is something “the mind already knows,” Johns acknowledged, its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection.

A critic of the time encapsulated this painting’s ambivalence by asking, “Is this a flag or a painting?”

About the Author

Amitai Sasson of is an art world traveler on a mission to seek out the beauty and passion of the art world. As an avid enthusiast of art and oil paintings, he contributes to as Chief editor and writer.