Painting - Square Roots of One, Two and Three

Crockett Johnson much enjoyed constructing square roots of numbers geometrically. He offered the following account of this painting, as well as the figure shown: "Let AN and BN be 1. Then the diagonal AB is the square root of 2, because it is the hypotenuse of a right triangle with sides of length √1 and √1. The large right triangle √1 plus √2 adds up to a hypotenuse of √3. The compass traces pronounce a statement and also declare its proof. The square root of 2 is 1.4142 . . . and the square root of 3 is 1.7321 . . . Their decimals run on and on but as produced by the compass and blind straightedge both numbers are quite as finite as 1. The triangle embodies three dimensions of the cube. CB is any edge, AB is a face diagonal, and AC is an internal diagonal." Crockett-Johnson described the source of the painting as "Artist's Construction, or Anybody's."
The triangle with three sides equal to the lengths of interest is painted white. Remaining segments of the construction are in dark gray and purple, with a black background. The painting has a brown wooden frame.
The painting is #66 in the series and is signed: CJ69. For a related painting, see #45 (1979.1093.32).
Reference: "Geometric Geometric [sic] Paintings by Crockett Johnson" NMAH Collections.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Johnson, Crockett
Physical Description
masonite (substrate material)
wood (frame material)
overall: 91.5 cm x 59.5 cm x 4.5 cm; 36 in x 23 7/16 in x 1 3/4 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Ruth Krauss in memory of Crockett Johnson
Additional Media

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