Savarin, Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns (American, born 1930) 

Savarin, 1982 

Color monotype and lithograph 

Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and gift of the Honolulu Advertiser Collection at Persis Corporation (TCM.1992.1.9) 

Jasper Johns is often referred to as a Pop artist because his early works comprised imagery drawn from everyday and popular culture, such as flags, maps, targets, letters and numbers. Primarily a painter, in 1960 Johns made a sculpture, Painted Bronze, by casting a Savarin coffee tin full of used brushes and then hand painting it in an illusionistic manner, simultaneously referencing and parodying reality. Johns subsequently used a graphic image of Painted Bronze many times in drawings and prints. (Interestingly, there has been no painting on this theme, although the artist attached a real Savarin can to a painting.) The Savarin image has been described as a metaphor for Johns himself and his working life, a kind of self-portrait. 

Johns made a large lithograph of the Savarin image in 1981. However, 27 impressions had to be scrapped, because the paper on which they were printed turned out to be wrong. Rather than destroy them, Johns set them aside, returning in 1982 to use them as the basis for a series of monotypes. He painted onto Plexiglas sheet and printed the paint over the lithograph image. 

In the monotype series, the can of brushes stands against a background of “hatched” brush marks that was inspired by the pattern of the bedspread in Edvard Munch’s painting Self-Portrait Between the Clock and the Bed, 1940– 42. Two other references to Munch appear, in the initials “E.M.” and the impression of Johns' arm mimicking the skeletal arm across the bottom of Munch's Self Portrait lithograph of 1895. The overt references to Munch reiterate the idea that the Savarin image is John’s own self-portrait.