Jasper Johns in Fiction

One of Jasper Johns’ biggest fans, and friend, was author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain). Crichton was an avid art collector and had Johns’ notable painting Flag hanging in his bedroom for many years. When Crichton’s collection was auctioned at Christie’s after Crichton’s death in 2008, Flag sold for nearly $29 million, way above estimates and another record for Johns’ work, at that time. Crichton was asked to write a catalog for a Jasper Johns retrospective at the Whitney in 1976. The catalog, titled Jasper Johns, became a beautiful coffee table book and a revised edition was published in 1994.

“He [Jasper Johns] does very beautiful work” Crichton wrote. “He’s an extremely interesting person to be around and his work I find challenging on many levels—it’s intellectually challenging, it’s visually challenging, and it rewards continued looking. You can have a piece of his work up for years and look at it and keep seeing new things and having new feelings about it. Not all artists are like that—in terms of their work.”

Crichton even used Johns’ painting Numbers in his novel Terminal Man to demonstrate the mental state of the book’s antagonist. In the novel, psychiatrist Janet Ross owns Numbers and her patient, an unstable computer scientist who believes that machines are trying to take over the world, sees the painting and is very disturbed by it, believing that an artist choosing to paint numbers instead of something from nature, reaffirmed his ideas about man and machine.

Jasper Johns: Facts

The Royal Academy of Arts in London is staging a major retrospective of Jasper Johns’ work, which will run in the Academy’s main galleries September 23 through December 10, 2017 and will include Johns’ paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings.

The Whitney and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are still preparing for their collaborative retrospective, which is scheduled to open in 2020. Because of the large body of work, spanning over sixty years, each venue is planning a show that will stand on its own, but will be complemented by the other. Both museums hope that visitors will want to attend both exhibits to get a complete picture of the breadth and scope of Johns’ work.

Johns, who turns 86 this year, said, “To the degree that I have been influenced or moved by other people’s work, I probably have an idea that someone might have that kind of use for my pictures.”

The work of Jasper Johns, in our gallery, represents a variety of media, techniques, styles and ideas. Please stop by or contact us for more information about the works of Jasper Johns available at VFA.

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