Flag (painting)

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Flag, Encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood,1954–55. Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
Detail of Flag (1954–55). Museum of Modern Art, New York City. This image illustrates Johns's early technique of painting with thick, dripping encaustic over a collage made from found materials such as newspaper. This rough method of construction is rarely visible in photographic reproductions of his work.

Flag is an encaustic painting by the American artist Jasper Johns. Created when Johns was 24 (1954–55), two years after he was discharged from the US Army, this painting was the first of many works that Johns has said were inspired by a dream of the U.S. flag in 1954. It is arguably the painting for which Johns is best known.[citation needed]


The work measures 42.2 inches (107.3 cm) by 60.6 inches (153.8 cm). It is made using encaustic, oil paint, and newsprint collage on three separate canvases, mounted on a plywood board. The painting reflects the three colors of the US flag: red, white and blue; the flag is depicted in the form it took between 1912 and 1959, with 48 white stars on a blue canton representing the then-US states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), and with thirteen red and white stripes. Newsprint is visible under the stripes. Reading the texts, it is clear that the newsprint was not selected at random: Johns steered clear of headlines, or national or political news, and used inconsequential articles or adverts. The painting has a rough-textured surface, and the 48 stars are not identical. It is dated 1954 on its reverse.

Flag series[edit]

Johns made over 40 works based on the US flag, including the large and monochrome White Flag in 1955, and his 1958 work Three Flags with three superimposed flags showing a total of 84 stars.

His 48-star Flag from 1958 was purchased in 2010 by hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen for an estimated $110 million, making it the most expensive work sold by a living artist as of 2023.[1]

In November 2014, the encaustic Flag (1983) was auctioned off for $36 million at Sotheby's in New York City.[2]


  1. ^ Carol Vogel (18 March 2010). "Planting a Johns 'Flag' in a Private Collection". New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  2. ^ Joe Tacopino (12 November 2014). "Jasper Johns' American flag painting sells for $36M". New York Post. Retrieved 2 October 2020.
External video
video icon Jasper Johns's Flag, Smarthistory

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