One of the object motifs explored along with coat hangers, ale cans and toothbrushes among others, light bulbs first appeared in drawings by Jasper Johns in 1957. In 1958 the artist created his first bronze sculpture of the subject, followed in 1960 and 1961 by further versions in plaster and wire and again in bronze. Beginning in 1966 and over a period of ten years Johns revisited the motif nine times in the print media to execute versions both as individual subjects and within series. The object represented in seven of these prints is not a light bulb, but his sculpture of a light bulb. The depiction of the represented object rather than the literal one is evident from the presence of the sculpture's base. Although a working proof of Light Bulb shows the artist overworking the print with colored crayons, the editioned prints are only printed in silver, grey and black: metallic tones which recall the patina of the original sculpture.
The present lithograph is the last of the print variants around the light bulb theme; compared to the experimental vigor of the earlier lithographs and etchings, the physical properties of this print show the practiced hand of a master printmaker: two warm grey washes and one black wash perfectly balance the artist's trademark hatched drawing style against a liquid background. Printed on a hand-fed offset proofing press, the light bulb sculpture is set within a pure expanse of English handmade paper. Light Bulb sums up the artist's printmaking style as one founded on the subtlest of oppositions.