A Painter’s Painter With Painterly Allure

Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns’s “Untitled” (2017), acrylic over etching with collage on canvas. It’s among the works in his latest exhibition, “Recent Paintings & Works on Paper,” at Matthew Marks Gallery in Manhattan. Credit Jasper Johns/VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY; via Matthew Marks Gallery.

… In its sheer variety and vitality, this exhibition is optimistic, and generous in spirit. It reaffirms Mr. Johns as, foremost, a painter’s painter and a working artist rather than an art historical subject. In it he revisits three or four previous series — extending, editing or recombining their motifs — and introduces two new ones that more than meet the Johnsian standards of mystery, suggestion and painterly allure.

(Roberta Smith, “Jasper Johns Stays Divinely Busy,” NYTimes, 2-26-19)

I’m drawn to the phrase “painter’s painter” (seen it before) and “painterly allure” (new to me) without knowing exactly what they mean but sort of what they mean or at least what they mean to me. I’ve also noted the term “Johnsian,” which I initially misread as “Johnsonian,” which sent me on a wild goose chase for quotations by Samuel Johnson about “mystery, suggestion,” etc., in painting. Having fetched up chastened on my Nicholsian rock of misunderstanding, I say here only that I’m attracted to Johns’s paintings, and in particular to what he does with stenciled-looking lettering. It has, for want of a better word, a painterly quality to it — brushy and overlapping and indistinct and modeled and luscious.

(c) 2019 JMN.


About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Quotations and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Painter’s Painter With Painterly Allure

  1. Interesting. Makes me think of ‘the athlete’s athelete’ I’ve heard and ‘Man’s man’. Never heard the phrase ‘a woman’s woman’ though. Now trying to think what painterly means to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JMN says:

      Yes, I’m intrigued too by phrases in the mold of “man’s man.” As a man, I don’t think I aspire to that label for some reason. It implies “manliness” taken to an extra level, I suppose. Meant as a compliment, presumably, but thanks, I’m man enough as is. “Painter’s painter” implies an artist appreciated especially (or only?) by other painters. Is the other kind a “viewer’s painter”? “Painterly allure” eludes me. Sexiness on canvas? Too allusive. Sorry for that. I don’t mean to make cheap fun of critical art jargon. I like to read about what experienced eyes see (and ears hear). Good criticism itself is a kind of art.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.