JASPER JOHNS | FLAG I, FLAG II AND FLAG III: FOUR PRINTS
Property from the Collection of Catherine Woodard & Nelson Blitz, Jr.
FLAG I, FLAG II AND FLAG III: FOUR PRINTS
Four lithographs, including three unique impressions, 1960, each signed in pencil, dated, titled and inscribed, one from an edition of ten, on various papers, framed (4 prints)
This lot comprises:
Flag I, a unique impression utilizing the stone for ULAE 4, this example printed in white on Kraft paper, inscribed 'Flag I in white, artist's proof (on Kraft paper)'
Flag II, a unique impression printed in white on laid paper, inscribed 'artist's proof white on white'
Flag III, a unique impression printed in white on wove paper, inscribed 'artist's proof white on white'
Flag III, lithograph printed in grey on Arches wove paper, inscribed 'III' and numbered 6/10
images approx.: 445 by 682 mm 17½ by 26⅞ in
sheets approx.: 550 by 780 mm 21⅝ by 30¾ in
With full margins, the prints are in good condition. 'Flag III' with a surface imperfection in lower margin.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Richard S. Field, Ed., The Prints of Jasper Johns 1960-1993: A Catalogue Raisonné, ULAE, West Islip, New York 1990, see cat. nos. 4, 5 & 7 (published edition illustrated)
The master of “…things the mind already knows,” Jasper Johns first depicted the American flag in the mid-1950’s, treating it as an everyday studio prop rather than a meaningful symbol. “Using the flag took care of a great deal for me,” Johns once explained, “…I didn’t have to design it. That gave me room to work on other levels.” Portraying such an iconic, recognized subject allowed the artist to focus on form and develop his own artistic practices. The universally recognized emblem was the ideal subject for Johns to study as a novice printmaker working with renowned publisher ULAE. New to lithography in 1960, he created three variations of the flag that year, each printed from one stone. He relied solely on lithographic tusche to render his first iteration, Flag I. Purely printed in black, this early adaptation of the subject very much resembles a drawing completed the year prior. Exemplifying his tendency to explore how a composition is transformed by the materials employed, the example of Flag I present here is a unique work, utilizing the same stone but varying the ink color and paper type. With Flag II and Flag III, Johns appears to have gained confidence and ventured to explore the capabilities of lithography more daringly, employing wash, crayon and a sharp tooling instrument to create fluttering, rhythmic lines that enhance a sense of movement.
Through Johns’ skilled draftsmanship and his methodical approach, the flag is reinterpreted. These unique impressions demonstrate how Johns pushed the boundaries of lithography, how the printmaking medium inherently allows an artist to reimagine their subject and to explore how subtle changes can have different visual effects.
 His heart belongs to DADA, Time 73, 4 May, 1959: 58; as quoted in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, MoMA New York, 1996, p. 82