Jasper Johns - Editions & Works on Paper New York Monday, October 24, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Monumental in size and iconography, Jasper John’s Savarin (1981) is the culmination of a decade of artistic exploration and experimentation. With its roots in Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s renowned lithograph Self-Portrait (1895), Johns took inspiration from Munch’s extensive oeuvre, in both subtle and overt ways, integrating concepts and formal elements into his own work. In Jasper Johns: A Print Retrospective, the Museum of Modern Art’s department director Riva Castleman says that "John’s fondness for the print mediums derives in great part from their inherent retention of actions, as they continue to exist on separate stones and plates. He would have liked to have kept every stone, every screen, every copperplate – envious of Edvard Munch.” The Scandinavian Expressionist kept his etching plates, woodblocks, and etched lithographic stones so he could continually return to them, reworking their surface and experimenting with how changes in inking, color, and additional mark-making could transform familiar imagery. In John’s work, we see the same habitual return to theme, imagery, and ideas: the finished product a visual record of his progress as an artist.


    Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait, 1895, lithograph; Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
    Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait, 1895. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

    Jasper Johns’s connection to Munch is one that originated in museums. It was retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1950 and in 1979 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. that allowed Johns to study Munch’s expressive and extensive body of prints. Following John’s visit to the 1979 retrospective at MoMA, Johns published his 1981 Savarin can with his most overt reference to Munch yet.


    The 1981 Savarin lithograph can trace its origin back to 1960, when Johns unveiled his sculpture, Painted Bronze, from a larger series based on everyday objects such as ale cans, flashlights, and toothbrushes. While other sculptures in the series were synonymous with household goods across America, Painted Bronze stood out as deeply personal, as it depicts the coffee can in his studio where his brushes soaked in solvent – adding specificity and biography to the artist’s typically universal iconography. Serving as an abstract self-portrait, Johns chooses these essential studio tools to represent his artistic identity, even going so far as to include his fingerprints on the cast of the paint brush handles.


    Awash in monotone grey, John’s iconic crosshatch takes a visual backseat to the vivid red arm along the bottom of the picture plane. For nearly a decade starting in 1972, the abstract motif of crosshatching became a major subject of his artistic output. When describing his fascination with the pattern he said, “It had all the qualities that interest me – literalness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness, and the possibility of complete lack of meaning.” However, by the late 1970s, the formal properties of crosshatching became restrictive and, after continually complicating the pattern, it became clear that he might exhaust his ability to manipulate the pattern. Thus, he began experimenting with adding more recognizable imagery and text into his crosshatched works.


    Johns first added the crosshatch motif to his beloved Savarin can in 1977 for his Whitney retrospective poster, enlarging the image beyond life-sized so it could be seen from long distances. When writing the exhibition catalogue for the 2016 exhibition, Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Inspiration and Transformation, curator John Ravenal mused that “conceptualized after this retrospective, Johns now incorporated Munch’s skeleton arm, adopting the motif in combination with his surrogate self-portrait of the savarin can and brushes to produce his own meditation on creativity, anxiety, and public exposure.” Finally, there is no question of the pair’s connection, as John’s adds Edvard Munch’s initials to the bottom right-hand corner next to the arm. In Munch’s print, the same space features the artist’s signature in pencil – but the commercial-looking block text in Johns’s lithograph mimics Munch’s name in the top margin of the 1895 print. Munch reverses several of his letters, not accounting for the mirrored imagery of lithography, a detail that would not have been lost to Johns. Read backwards, “E.M.” would spell “ME” and offers yet another, if not overt, connection between Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch – the self-portrait pair almost a century in the making.

    • Literature

      Universal Limited Art Editions 220

    • Artist Biography

      Jasper Johns

      American • 1930

      Jasper Johns is a painter and printmaker who holds a foundational place in twentieth century art history. Quoting the evocative gestural brushstroke of the Abstract Expressionists, Johns represented common objects such as flags, targets, masks, maps and numbers: He sought to explore things "seen and not looked at, not examined" in pictorial form.  Drawing from common commercial and 'readymade' objects, such as newspaper clippings, Ballantine Ale and Savarin Coffee cans, Johns was a bridge to Pop, Dada and Conceptual art movements.

      Beyond the historical significance, each work by Johns is individually considered in sensuous form. A curiosity of medium led him to employ a range of materials from encaustic and commercial house paint to lithography, intaglio and lead relief.

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Savarin (U.L.A.E. 220)

Lithograph in colors, on Rives BFK paper, with full margins.
I. 40 x 29 3/4 in. (101.6 x 75.6 cm)
S. 50 x 38 in. (127.0 x 96.5 cm)

Signed, dated and numbered 20/60 in pencil (there were also 9 artist's proofs), published by Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $50,400

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212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24 - 26 October 2022