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Proofing Figure 5: From Jasper Johns’s Print Archive at the National Gallery

Johns reworking the stone for Figure 1, 1968. Image courtesy of Gemini G.E.L.


Johns working on proofs of Color Numerals, 1968. Photograph by Malcolm Lubliner

Preliminary impressions, known as proofs, are regularly pulled during a print’s development. Each one presents the artist with the opportunity to evaluate the development of the image and to consider the next steps. Johns embellished with crayon, chalk, and paint many of the proofs that were pulled during the development of Color Numerals. The various proofs for Figure 5, for example, show Johns testing the impact of blue on the color palette and the effect of vertical rather than horizontal bands of color. Several include additions in the artist’s own hand as he adjusted a contour, or added a gestural brush mark or crayon scribble. Johns retained, annotated, and signed each one of the Color Numerals proofs.


Color Numerals being printed, 1969. Photograph by Malcolm Lubliner


The National Gallery of Art has over 1,700 proofs from Johns’s personal archive, including many related to Color Numerals. View the slideshow below for a selection of those related to Figure 5.