John Lennon was a keen artist from a young age, particularly interested in sketches, drawings and nonsense. His early art combined satire, cartoon and wordplay, often with a sinister edge.
The Bag One collection was created as a wedding gift for Yoko Ono. It is a chronicle of their wedding ceremony, their honeymoon, and also the infamous Bed-In. Anthony Fawcett, in his book One Day at a Time, describes his role in the initial process:
I kept in touch with John and Yoko after the Coventry Acorn Event [June 15th 1968], but the first attempts I made to interest John in lithography met with only a vague, distant response. The technicalities of the process seemed alien to him, accustomed as he was to the spontaneity and simplicity of cartoon drawing. John had always considered basic drawing, doodling and sketching his forte, as they best suited his impulsive creative methods; he liked to translate the image from his head to the paper as rapidly as possible and with the least amount of fuss. Often his drawing, like his rhetoric, could not keep pace with his meteoric rush of ideas.
‘John was slightly more enthusiastic about the project when, with the help of publisher Ed Newman and the Curwen Studio, I devised a way to shortcut the complicated procedure of working directly onto stone blocks or zinc plates. By using specially treated “litho paper”, which I had sent out to his house along with an array of suitable brushes, litho ink, and crayons, John would be able to draw or paint in his usual manner. The images could later be transferred from the paper onto sensitized zinc plates by means of an advanced technical process, and the lithographs printed in the traditional way.’
The inaugural exhibition of the work at London Arts Gallery in January 1970 was closed by Scotland Yard on the second day, with the eight erotic pictures removed and pressing charges. A magistrate later dismissed the case, determining that the images were unlikely to deprave or corrupt.
The collection was later exhibited at Lee Nordness Galleries in February 1970. Fawcett also describes the event:
‘The whole of the New York art scene and all the ‘beautiful people’ turned out. Dali came with his pet ocelot on a leash. The lithographs were on view in a specially created environment, where spectators were asked to remove their shoes.’
An edition of 300 lithographs, containing the original 14 pieces, three cover pages and a carrying bag were also published, each signed by Lennon. A copy was auctioned at Christie’s in November 2011, fetching US$55,975.
Silver K is proud to have 4 of John Lennon’s Bag One Lithographs available, click here to view them.