Jasper Johns

American, born 1930

No image available,
but we're working on it

Numbers in Color, 1958-1959

Artwork Details

Collection Highlight


encaustic and newspaper on canvas


support: 66 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches (168.91 x 125.73 cm); framed: 74 1/2 x 57 x 3 7/8 inches (189.23 x 144.78 x 9.84 cm)

Collection Buffalo AKG Art Museum


Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1959

Accession ID


Jasper Johns’s earliest paintings depict common, easily recognizable images like targets and flags—emblems we do not generally study in great detail. We are, however, expected to stop and look at paintings. Johns employed this paradox to force viewers to rethink the meaning of not only art but also what it represents. In many of his compositions, he included familiar symbols and systems that are used to create order in the world, such as numbers and maps. Numerals—from zip codes to social security identification—organize our lives in a variety of ways but are, in fact, only ideas; they are not tangible things. For Johns, ubiquitous subjects allowed him to focus on other aspects of the work, such as medium and surface. To create Numbers in Color he used encaustic, an ancient painting method in which pigment is dissolved in hot wax. Furthermore, Johns embedded pieces of newspaper in the encaustic. While these fragments add depth and texture, they also refer to concrete objects and events in the real world. Yet, the text has been rendered illegible.