“I tend to like things that already exist.”

–Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns pushed against expectations of gestural painting, specifically the notion that painting flowed from the deep well of the artist’s psyche. Thermometer alerts us to the rising temperature in art world circles at the time. His expressive brushstrokes play with chance in hot primary colors, a large thermometer sits in the middle of the canvas and numbers are stenciled along the vertical strip.

Virginia Wright hadn’t seen Jasper John’s work prior to her trip to New York City in the ‘50s during which she purchased Thermometer. “The stenciled numbers make the juxtaposition between the painterly and the mechanical,” describes Virginia Wright. This juxtaposition allowed Johns to move the dial within the arts to a new engagement with everyday objects while staying firmly committed to painting.

Image: Thermometer, 1959, Jasper Johns, oil on canvas with thermometer, 51 3/4 x 38 1/2 in., frame 53 1/4 x 40 1/4 x 2 in., Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the museum’s 50th year, 91.97, © Jasper Johns.