"Handing Me One of the Halves, He Spoke the Single Word, Drink": Translation #23

Not on view



Enamel on canvas mounted on wood

Overall: 29 7/8 × 20in. (75.9 × 50.8 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund, Mrs. Laila Twigg-Smith, Dr. Jack Chachkes, the John I. H. Baur Purchase Fund, the Wilfred P. and Rose J. Cohen Purchase Fund, the Julia B. Engel Purchase Fund and gift of Odyssia Skouras

Rights and reproductions
©The Jess Collins Trust
Reproduced with permission


Between 1959 and 1976, Jess produced a series of thirty-two works entitled Translations. These works, he explained, “translated nineteenth-century images through time to the present.” Their sources, like much of the artist’s work, were reproductions from his large, disparate archive of black-and-white book and magazine illustrations, postcards, and old photographs. “Handing Me One of the Halves He Spoke the Single Word, Drink”: Translation #23 is based on an illustration by J. Augustus Knapp found in John Uri Lloyd’s 1894 book Etidorpha, or the End of the Earth. Jess copied the image onto canvas with a pencil and then painted it in a heavily impastoed, paint-by-numbers style, filling in the original black-and-white illustration with an assortment of lush greens. The text on the back of the painting, also from Lloyd’s book, concerns time, eternity, and the human soul.