JOHN LENNON AS AN ARTIST
WHEN DID JOHN LENNON BECOME AN ARTIST?
Art was actually Lennon’s first love. He began drawing long before he had a guitar, then attended the prestigious Liverpool Art Institute for three years (1957-60) before the Beatles became a full-time occupation. He continued to draw throughout his life.
DID LENNON INTEND FOR HIS ARTWORK TO BE EXHIBITED?
Yes. In 1970 he chose 14 drawings from the “Bag One” portfolio to be produced as stone lithographics in a limited edition intended to be sold in galleries. He personally signed each lithograph and attended the premier opening in London.
IS LENNON KNOWN AS AN ARTIST?
Lennon’s drawings became illustrations for three best-selling books: In His Own Write (1964), A Spaniard in the Works (1965) and Skywriting By Word of Mouth (1987) . In addition, a complete suite of the “Bag One” portfolio of lithographs is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This graphic collection has traveled throughout the U.S., England, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong and Manila. Please check MOMA’s schedule for opportunities to view the collection. Lennon’s original drawings are also being collected by museums throughout the world.
WHAT IS “BAG ONE”?
John originally created a portfolio of drawings in 1969 which he entitled “Bag One”. These drawings depicted John and Yoko’s wedding and honeymoon and he presented them to her as a wedding gift. When the drawings were released as lithographs they were confiscated by police in several countries because the erotic contents of some of the drawings was considered to be obscene. Although the charges of obscenity never held up in court, many of the lithographs were destroyed by mishandling and John was discouraged from showing his artwork in public for many years after.
WHAT IS THE RED STAMP ON THE PRINTS?
Artists in the Orient sign their works with an individual, patented stamp known as a chop. John Lennon’s (to the left), which is hand-stamped in red on each edition, was designed by him to read “Like a Cloud, Beautiful Sound.”
WHOSE SIGNATURE APPEARS ON THE LATER EDITIONS?
Each limited edition fine art print is authenticated by John Lennon’s embossed signature, the embossed printer and publisher’s mark, Yoko Ono Lennon’s hand-signature, and John’s personal chop mark.
WHAT HAPPENED TO LENNON’S UNRELEASED DRAWINGS?
At the time of his death, John had saved and preserved several hundred drawings that he considered important. In 1986, Yoko Ono began releasing limited editions of some of the most meaningful drawings, using only fine art printing techniques, with the goal of re-establishing John Lennon as an important artist of his time.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SERIGRAPH AND A LITHOGRAPH?
Serigraphs use a silkscreen to reproduce fine lines and colors. Stone lithographs are hand-pulled on a printing press using stone plates with the image transferred to the fine art paper. Each artwork was released in the medium most suited to capturing the original drawing.
WHO SELECTED THE COLORS IN THE COLORED EDITIONS?
Continuing a collaboration that was at the heart of their relationship throughout their life together, Yoko Ono, a world-renowned artist herself, chose colors that she felt would enhance the meaning of the original drawings.
HOW WERE THE LYRIC PRINTS MADE?
The 20 prints in the “Beatle Years” and “Solo Years” portfolios are hand-pulled serigraphs reproduced from Lennon’s original hand-written lyric sheets. They are signed in the plate and are limited to an edition of 1,050 worldwide.