Motif The Target Naming of Colors The Device Imprint of the Body National Gallery of Art
Jasper Johns: An Allegory of Painting, 1955–1965
Imprint of the Body

In 1962 Johns added the fourth motif, the imprint of the body, in the form of his own palm print and, more startlingly, printed images of his own face. The technique was used in a series of four drawings produced in preparation for a never-realized sculpture (a rubber cast of a head that was to have been stretched on a board and cast in bronze). The drawings, each called Study for "Skin," were produced in two stages: first, the artist applied baby oil to his head and hands, which he then pressed onto sheets of paper tacked to a wall; the invisible imprint was revealed by strokes of charcoal subsequently applied with repetitive, mechanical motions of the arm (view Johns creating a Study for "Skin" drawing). The image that resulted shows a flattened representation of the entire volume of the artist's head (which he "rolled" across the sheet, like a cylinder seal). Through this procedure of imprint or direct trace, the body is preserved as a corporeal entity, yet made coextensive with the flatness of the sheet.

Johns executed the four so-called Skin drawings prior to the painting Diver. Then in 1963–1965 he used the Skin drawing technique to create several prints, including the lithograph Skin with O'Hara Poem, which incorporates a transcription of the poem "The Clouds Go Soft" by Frank O'Hara.

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