About This Artwork

Jasper Johns
American, born 1930

Corpse and Mirror II, 1974/75

Oil on linen (four panels), with painted frame
146.4 x 191.1 cm (57 5/8 x 75 1/4 in.), framed
Not inscribed on recto

Lent by the artist, 7.1976

Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

In his work from 1972 to 1983, Jasper Johns used a distinct arrangement of crosshatched marks, traditionally considered a graphic method of adding depth and volume to an image or conveying the illusion of light in space. Johns first glimpsed this pattern on a passing car, recalling: “I only saw it for a second, but knew immediately that I was going to use it. It had all the qualities that interest me—literalness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness, and the possibility of a complete lack of meaning.” Emphasizing the flatness of the painting, Johns’s cross-hatching is gestural without being emotive; in this sense, the technique extends his larger critique of overtly expressionist models of painting. Johns forged a new model of painterly abstraction, using a schema that is repeatable and ordered but not strictly geometric or reductive.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, “Jasper Johns,” January 24–February 14, 1976, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, “72nd American Exhibition,” March 13–May 9, 1976, cat. 19 (ill.).

Kassel, “Documenta VI,” June 24–October 2, 1977, vol. 1, p. 90.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, “Jasper Johns,” October 17, 1977–January 22, 1978, cat. by Michael Crichton; traveled to Cologne, Museum Ludwig, February 10–March 26, 1978, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, April 18–June 4, 1978, London, Hayward Gallery, June 21–July 30, 1978, Tokyo, Seibu Museum of Art, August 19–September 26, 1978, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, October 20–December 10, 1978, cat. 156, pl. 163 (color ill.). For a discussion of “Corpse and Mirror,”1974, see pp. 60–61; rev. ed. (1994), p. 95 (ill.), pl. 163 (color ill.).

New York, Museum of Modern Art, “Jasper Johns: A Retrospective,” October 20, 1996–January 21, 1997, cat. by Kirk Varnedoe; traveled to Cologne, Museum Ludwig, March 8–June 1, 1997, Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, June 28–August 17, 1997, pp. 275–77, pl. 158 (color ill.). For a discussion of Johns’ crosshatch paintings, see p. 269.

Basel, Fondation Beyeler, “Jasper Johns: Loans From The Artist,” October 21, 1997–February 15, 1998, cat. 11 (color ill.).

Richmond, Virginia, "Spotlight Loan," Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, June 1–September 21, 2008

Oslo, Munch Museum, Jasper Johns + Edvard Munch, June 18–Sept. 25, 2016, fig. 8; Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss, and the Cycle of Life, Nov. 19,20016–Feb. 20, 2017.

Publication History

Thomas B. Hess, “On the Scent of Jasper Johns,” “New York Magazine” (February 9, 1976), n.pag., repr. in Susan Brundage, ed., “Jasper Johns, 35 Years: Leo Castelli” (Harry N. Abrams, 1993), n.pag.

Robert Hughes, “Pictures at an Inhibition,” “Time” (October 31, 1977), p. 86 (color ill.), as “Corpse and Mirror, 1976.”

Richard Francis, “Jasper Johns,” Modern Masters 7 (Abbeville Press, 1984), pp. 86, 88, fig. 92 (ill.). For a general discussion of Johns’ crosshatch paintings, see pp. 85–91.

Charles Harrison and Fred Orton, “Jasper Johns: ‘Meaning What You See,’” “Art History” 7, 1 (March 1984), pp. 78, 89, pl. 36 (ill.).

Nan Rosenthal and Ruth E. Fine, “The Drawings of Jasper Johns,” exh. cat. (National Gallery of Art/Thames and Hudson, 1990), pp. 226, 228, 230, 232, fig. 69a (ill.).

Richard Shiff, “Constructing Physicality,” “Art Journal” 50, 1 (Spring 1991), pp. 46–47, fig. 4 (ill.).

Stephen Paul Miller, “‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,’ the Watergate Affair, and Johns’s Crosshatch Paintings: Surveillance and Reality-Testing in the Mid-Seventies,” “Boundary 2” 20, 2 (Summer 1993), p. 113.

Fred Orton, “Figuring Jasper Johns” (Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 9, 188, 192, 195, fig. 64 (ill.).

John Ravenal, Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Inspiration and Transformation, exh. cat. (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Yale University Press in partnership with the Munch Museum), pp. 8; 9, fig. 8 (color ill); 121.

Ownership History

On extended loan from the artist to the Art Institute since 1976.

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