Jasper Johns was born on May 15, 1930, in Augusta, Georgia, and grew up in South Carolina. He studied at the University of South Carolina in Columbia from 1947 to 1948, before moving to New York. In the mid-1950s Johns began to paint a series of works depicting the American flag, developing this work into a style that became increasingly complex. In 1958 the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York presented Johns’s first solo show, from which the Museum of Modern Art acquired three works. His work of this period was considered both a continuation of and a critique of Abstract Expressionism, but at the end of the 1950s his style changed as he began to focus increasingly on process.

In 1961 he introduced a map of the United States as a motif in his work. During the decade that followed, Johns made his first monochromatic paintings; which would remain a primary concern throughout his career. In the 1980s he again introduced new motifs into his work, including popular icons, images, and patterns he saw in his everyday life, and Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece (1512–1516). In the late 1980s Johns referenced Pablo Picasso in several of his works; the Four Seasons series of 1986, for example, quotes Picasso’s The Shadow (L’ombre, 1953).

In 1964 a large retrospective of Johns’s work was presented at the Jewish Museum in New York and traveled to the Whitechapel Gallery in London. He participated in the Venice Biennale the same year. In 1965 he had a retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum in Pasadena, California, and received a prize at the International Biennial of Graphic Art in Ljubljana, in former Yugoslavia. In 1977 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York organized a retrospective that traveled to the Kunsthalle Köln in Cologne, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Hayward Gallery in London, the Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. In 1988 he was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale. Johns lives and works in Sharon, Connecticut.