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Jasper Johns: Flag (1954)

Jasper Johns is an American artist, born in 1930. When Johns started painting, most art was abstract (non-realistic pictures of lines and shapes that did not represent anything you could see in the surrounding world). Johns broke with the abstract tradition.

Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns

His work was representational; he painted flags and maps, as well as stencilled numbers and letters. He was especially fascinated by everyday objects, things he called “seen but not looked at”. Johns wanted people to see these objects in a fresh way and not just take them for granted.

Looking at Art

Jasper John's "Map"
Jasper John's "Map" (1961)

Study Johns’s Flag from 1954 and his Map from 1961.

  1. How is Johns’s Flag similar to, and different from, an actual American flag? Key: Jasper Johns flag
  2. And in what ways is Johns’s Map similar to, and different from, an actual map of America? Key: Jasper Johns map
  3. Take a quick look at the schoolbooks and maps in your classroom and try to see them as Johns would. Then, use a whole day and try to discover some things that are “seen but not looked at”, things around us which we see but do not notice or think twice about. Make a list of at least five things. Next class, sit with your partner and explain why your objects are “seen but not looked at”.
  4. Compare and contrast Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue to Jasper Johns’s American Flag from 1954.What is similar? What is different?


Art and Films