Jasper Johns was born in 1930 in Georgia and raised in South Carolina. He studied art at the University of South Carolina, but soon moved to New York where he enrolled in an apprenticeship as a commercial artist. After serving two years in the army during the Korean War, he returned to New York in 1953. He soon became friends with the artist Robert Rauschenberg, the composer John Cage and the choreographer Merce Cunningham.
Together with Rauschenberg and several Abstract Expressionist painters of the previous generation, Johns is recognised as one of most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century. He is also seen as one of the greatest printmakers of any era. Johns is know for his unusual sculptural pieces and his unique drawings on paper, which are usually based on a painting he had previously painted. The American flag is a popular theme in Johns' work along with other familiar icons such as targets, beer cans and stencilled numbers.
In 1988 Jasper Johns was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale. In 1989 he was appointed honorary member of the Royal Academy in London and he showed a large retrospective at the The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1996.