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Jasper Johns. Diver. 1962-63

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Jasper Johns (American, born 1930)


Charcoal, pastel, and paint on paper mounted on canvas, two panels
7' 2 1/2" x 71 3/4" (219.7 x 182.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Partial gift of Kate Ganz and Tony Ganz in memory of their parents, Victor and Sally Ganz, and in memory of Kirk Varnedoe; Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest Fund; gift of Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., gift of Philip L. Goodwin, bequest of Richard S. Zeisler, and anonymous gift (all by exchange). Acquired by the Trustees of The Museum of Modern Art in memory of Kirk Varnedoe
MoMA Number:
© 2015 Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York
Audio Program excerpt

MoMA Audio: Collection

, 2008

Director, Glenn Lowry: This is Diver by Jasper Johns. At the top of the work, youll see footprints, and at the bottom and center, handprints, which seem to evoke the physical movement of a dive.

Curator Emeritus, John Elderfield: Since the marks are of Jasper Johns's feet and hands, it could be thought to be a kind of self-portrait. We think that the way in which he got his image onto the paper was to grease the hands and feet, imprint them, and then sprinkle charcoal on top. It has a very strange emotional tone and part of this, I think, is because of the gray, and the sense of internal light which comes up from the brown paper and the white chalk, the little touches of red and blue paint.

We know that Johns was very interested in the poet Hart Crane, who died by suicide, by drowning. And there's a report of that death that a hand was seen pushed up, above the water as Crane went down. In this case, there are two hands which can be perceived to be pushing up in this drawing, clearly something about falling and moving into the water in a big swan dive.

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