Jasper Johns



Not on display

Jasper Johns born 1930
Lithograph on paper
Image: 1010 × 759 mm
Purchased 1982

Catalogue entry

P07736 Savarin 1982

Monotype over lithograph 39 3/4 × 29 7/8 (1010 × 759) on Rives BFK paper 50 1/4 × 38 (1275 × 965), printed by Bill Goldston with Thomas Cox and James V. Smith at Universal Limited Art Editions, Long Island, published by ULAE in an edition of 4 varying impressions
Inscribed ‘J Johns ‘82’ and ‘4/4’ b.r.; impressed with the printer's and publisher's stamp
Purchased from Universal Limited Art Editions (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Lit: Judith Goldman, Jasper Johns: 17 Monotypes, 1982 (‘1/4’ repr.)

In 1960 Johns made two sculptures, both entitled ‘Painted Bronze’. One was a pair of Ballantine Ale cans and the other a Savarin coffee tin full of used brushes. In the painterly surfaces of these works reference and illusion were set up to embody and at the same time parody reality. The Savarin image recurs in the intervening years as a metaphor for Johns himself: taken from his studio, it is a surrogate for the persona of an artist and his working life, standing for his integrity and asserting itself as literal but with many, often paradoxical, connotations. Johns's ‘1st Etchings’ 1967–8 include one in which Johns worked over a photo-etching of the sculpture, and the image appears again in a number of subsequent prints. There has been no painting on this theme (though a real Savarin can was attached to ‘Field Painting’ 1963–4) - it has remained a graphic image from the original sculpture.

In the present work the can of brushes stands against a background of brush-marks in a pattern of ‘hatching’ that has been a central theme in Johns's work since 1972. It has been said to derive from a pattern glimpsed on a passing car and from the bedspread on the right hand side of the painting ‘Self Portrait Between the Clock and the Bed’ 1940–2 by Edvard Munch. Two other references to Munch appear, in the initials ‘E.M.’ and the underlining of the image with the impression of Johns's arm like the skeletal arm across the bottom of Munch's ‘Self Portrait’ lithograph of 1895. The overt references to Munch reiterate the idea that in Johns' work Expressionism is displaced into a strict discipline, like the passions in traditional Japanese theatre. Using an extra plate from a lithograph of the ‘Savarin’ image used for the poster to his 1977 retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum, Johns had made a new lithograph which was editioned in 1981. Twenty-seven impressions had to be scrapped, however, when the tone of the paper on which they were printed turned out to be wrong. Preventing Bill Goldston from destroying these proofs, Johns set them aside and returned in January 1982 to use them as the basis for a series of monotypes. He painted onto plexiglas sheet and used ULAE's hand-fed proofing press to lay the paint over the printed image. An offset press was also used for some printings (but not for ‘No.4’). In ten of the final seventeen they made between two and four impressions of the same painted image - though there is considerable variation between them - and these were numbered, so that the present example is 4/4, the fourth variant of the fourth monotype. Of the series of seventeen, eleven are over lithograph proofs (including ‘No.4’), the rest being from painted images only. The variations on the theme through the series include the introduction of colour into the monochrome areas of the lithograph, alterations to the band containing the arm impression, coloured hand-impressions replacing the ‘hatching’, background, setting the image in an oval, darkening it and adding illusory nails, infusing it with red, radically changing the colour, replacing the arm with a date - ‘21 Jan. 1982’ (the date ‘13 Jan. 1982’ also appears: Johns is said to have made all seventeen monotypes in four working days), adding ‘HALLELUJA’, and finally making a soft, partly obliterated image by blotting from the penultimate print. In ‘No.4’ colour is added and the dark tones reinforced but the red arm impression and the initials are still visible across the bottom of the image.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

You might like