The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
The Cold War years of the 1950s spawned a generation of post–World
War II American artists who, for want of a better word, are termed post–Abstract
Expressionist painters. Acknowledged as one of the most important of this
group is the Georgia-born, South Carolina–raised Jasper Johns (1930- ),
who startled the art world of the mid-1950s with his numerous paintings of
bull's-eye targets, American flags, and Arabic numerals.
Johns' early years were unsettled. After a year at the University of
South Carolina, he headed for New York City in 1949 to study art. The academic
work was apparently a disappointment, for he soon abandoned the classroom
for study on his own. Still, the first few years in New York City remained
a time of what seemed to be futile struggle. Then, one night the 24-year-old
had a dream. "I dreamt I painted a large American flag," he recounted nearly
two decades later in a documentary featuring his work. "The next morning I
went out and bought the materials to begin it." Thus begins, in Johns' typically
understated manner, the story of how the Flag paintings
came to be.
Southgate MT. Three Flags. JAMA. 2004;291(24):2916. doi:10.1001/jama.291.24.2916