Johns rarely makes studies for paintings, rendering this large sketch something of an exception. The resulting painting follows its specifications closely: a ruler, attached to the stretcher bar by a wing nut, scrapes an arc of wax-based encaustic paint before being halted by a small metal cup. The thick blotting paper used for this study allowed Johns to abrade the surface without rupturing it, in order to approximate the ruler’s future movement across the painting’s surface. Partaking of Johns’s extensive interest in impressions, traces and imprints, this disruption of the paper’s surface amounts to a subtle lateral tear, like rubbing away a layer of skin.
Inscription: Inscribed and signed (lower right): For Jim Dine - J. Johns
Jim Dine, New York (1961–78; his gift to MMA)
Jewish Museum, New York. "Jasper Johns," February 16–April 12, 1964, no. 126 (lent by Jim Dine, New York City).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions," October 16, 1979–January 30, 1980.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965," January 28–April 29, 2007, no. 45.
Kunstmuseum Basel. "Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965," June 2–September 9, 2007, no. 45.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paper Trails: Selected Works from the Collection, 1934–2001," July 19–November 27, 2011, no catalogue.
Jeffrey Weiss. Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2007, pp. 11, 164, no. 45, ill. (color) pp. 104, 164.