Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 2004. Courtesy of ArtWise.

Jasper Johns: Flags

In 1954, two years after being discharged from the United States Army, the 24-year-old Jasper Johns had a vivid dream of the American flag. The next morning, Johns gathered the materials to bring this dream to canvas, creating an encaustic version of the U.S. flag with hot wax, paint, fabric, and collaged newspapers. Johns would go on to return to the flag more than 40 times throughout his career, sometimes in its signature tri-color palette and others in muted gray and white monochromes. The resulting images are among the most celebrated works in American art, and made Johns one of the best-selling artists of all time. Johns’s flags are now in the permanent collections of the MoMA, the Whitney, and the Tate—though related works on paper can still be collected today. In 2010, Flag (1958), previously owned by Johns’ gallerist Leo Castelli, sold for $110 million to a private collection, making it one of the most expensive works ever sold.

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