The Art of John Lennon

By Watson, Lisa Crawford | Art Business News, April 2001 | Go to article overview

The Art of John Lennon


Watson, Lisa Crawford, Art Business News


A new tour features whimsical work created by Lennon for his son Sean

Imagine if John Lennon were with us today. Would he be pleased with our progress toward peace and real love? Thanks to his fans and, in large part, to his widow Yoko Ono, Lennon's vision does remain present not only through his music, which continues to outsell the market, but through the release of his visual art.

It was a silent yet steadfast promise Ono made to the memory of her husband that the world would know him as an artist. To fulfill his wish for a serious exhibition of his art, she started releasing his work to the public. Beginning in 1986 with a series called "This is my Story Both Humble and True," she continued with "Bag One Continued," "Dakota Days" and "Karuizawa Series."

Ono's latest release, currently on tour across the country, is "Real Love," a collection of drawings Lennon created with and for their son Sean during the last year of John's life. Random House New York published the images, which reveal a marvelous sense of humor in the often-intense artist, in a small book of the same title in 1999.

"In 1975, John became the father of a very special boy; Sean," wrote Ono in the "Real Love" prologue. "John was ecstatic. `I'm going to raise this baby, Yoko. You do the business' It was that simple ... John would draw something and explain to Sean what it was. Then it was Sean's turn. John would write what Sean had said underneath the drawings as titles ... That is how Sean learned the fun of drawing, the fun of doing things together with his dad and the fun of life."

Presented by Legacy Productions in northern California, the exhibit includes more than 100 drawings Lennon created between 1968 and 1980, the year of his death. Ono believes he would be pleased.

"I think John's art for the most part represents old-fashioned family traditions," Ono said

Larry Schwartz of Legacy Productions said, "He made a lot of social statements, but there's a lot about the family in his work."

In addition to "Real Love," the show includes whimsical sketches, each of which portrays Lennon's inextricable political and family values, as well as many controversial images from the "Bag One Portfolio" he drew as a wedding gift for Ono. Chronicling their wedding ceremony, honeymoon and appeal for world peace, the series was first published and exhibited in 1970 at the London Art Gallery, only to be confiscated as erotica by Scotland Yard a day later. The portfolio is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

"These works are highly emotional for many who attend our shows," said Schwartz. "The exhibit is touring the United States, and pieces are being offered for sale to the public."

Although best known for his music, Lennon was a visual artist and writer first. Born in Liverpool, England in 1940, he studied at Liverpool Art Institute from 1957 until 1960, where he wrote and illustrated two books of poetry, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. …

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