Posted in March 2014
Wallace & Hodgson bring a unique John Lennon collection to Auction
The largest collection of original John Lennon drawings & manuscripts ever to come on to the market will be offered for auction at Sotheby’s New York, 4 June 2014.
Wallace & Hodgson are delighted to announce the forthcoming auction of a fascinating single-owner collection of more than 100 John Lennon manuscripts including short stories, poems and line drawings, most of them produced for his two books, In His Own Write (1964) and A Spaniard in The Works (1965). Carey and Sarah have been working on bringing this collection to auction for the last couple of years and have collaborated with Sotheby’s on this extremely exciting venture.
This extraordinary collection has been in the possession of legendary publisher Tom Maschler for the last 50 years. Maschler, as Literary Director of Jonathan Cape, was responsible for bringing both In His Own Write (1964) and A Spaniard in the Works (1965) to fruition. Lennon, in gratitude, made a gift to Maschler of the raw materials.
Tom Maschler recalls: “ My relationship with Lennon was different to those I had with all the other authors I worked with over my years as a publisher. Having seen a superb sketch of his that a mutual acquaintance showed me, I met with John to suggest that he should produce ‘John Lennon In His Own Write’. I then had to inspire in him the confidence to write and produce the drawings.”
John’s first book met with critical acclaim around the world, Lennon’s work was compared to that of Edward Lear and Lewis Carrol, and Maschler commissioned the follow up, A Spaniard in the Works (1965) which sold almost as many copies as its predecessor.
The collection comprises 89 lots, and estimates range between $500 to $70,000. One of the highlights of the sale is a nine-page autograph manuscript with John’s corrections for The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield, Lennon’s hilarious parody of Sherlock Holmes which Lennon described as the longest prose piece he’d ever written. Est. $50,000-$70,000.
It is hard to choose highlights between the delightful 53 drawings in the sale. One untitled piece of a boy with six birds, from Lennon’s second book was used 15 years after Lennon’s death for the cover of the Beatles’ single Free as a Bird, 1995. Est. $12,000-$15,000. Estimates for the drawings range from $5,000-$7,000 for a drawing of one of Lennon’s characteristic bizarre creatures to $20,000-$30,000 for a rare ink and watercolour drawing from Bernice’s Sheep, 1965.
It is clear that Tom Maschler has an instinctive recognition of both verbal and visual talent. However, he feared that Lennon’s fame as ‘A Beatle’ might result in his not being taken seriously as an artist. Maschler conceded: “ I was wrong. For his writing was compared to Hilaire Belloc and Edward Lear by serious critics. His art, however was underrated. And it still is. So, indeed I expect that this auction will go a long way to redressing the balance. I find that an immensely satisfying thought.”
The sale coincides with two important landmarks for Lennon: the 50th anniversary of the publication of In His Own Write; and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ legendary first appearance in America on the Ed Sullivan show, which launched them into the Pop stratosphere.
Public Viewing Dates
South by South West Music Festival, South Congress Books, 1609 Congress Ave, Austin, Texas. Selected Highlights 13-14 March, 2014
Sotheby’s London, 34-35 New Bond Street. Extensive Highlights 21-25 March 2014
Sotheby’s New York, 28 May – 3 June, 2014 Auction on 4 June 2014
Highlights and Press Commentary
John Lennon ‘You Might Well Arsk’ Original Drawings and Manuscripts, 1964-65
Untitled illustration of a boy with six birds.
9 3/10 x 7 4/5 in.; 237 x 198 mm, ink drawing in black with editorial notes added in blue ink on single leaf. The first illustration from In His Own Write, published on page 3. One bird, balanced on the boy’s head, appears to be contained in a bottle whilst others are perched on each hand.
The boy appears to have only three fingers and a thumb on his left hand.
This drawing was used as the artwork for the 7” single and CD single release of Free as a Bird. The song, composed and recorded by John Lennon in 1977, was remixed with contributions from the other Beatles in 1995. First released on the Anthology 1 album, it was released as a single on 4 December 1995. It would reach number two in the UK singles chart and number 6 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Puffing and globbering they drugged themselves rampling or dancing with wild abdomen, stubbing in wild postumes amongst themselves…” from ‘Neville Club’.
4 1/2 x 8 in.; 117 x 205 mm, ink drawing in black This orgy of drink, drugs and dancing is published on pages 58-59 of In His Own Right and is one of only two illustrations in the book that are given a printed title. The image shows the people within the ‘Neville Club’, described as “a seemy hole”.
A photograph of Lennon in the hallway of his home in Weybridge taken by Robert Freeman in 1964 shows a section of this illustration, hugely enlarged, in the background.
‘The Fat Budgie’, autograph manuscript.
The original manuscript of one of Lennon’s best loved and funniest poems.
Untitled illustration of a four-eyed guitar player.
7 9/10 x 9 1/10 in.; 202 x 233 mm, ink drawing in black. An unpublished illustration.
Untitled illustration of a vicar gazing at a naked couple.
4 3/8 x 5 3/4 in.; 111 x 147 mm, ink drawing in black Published, as a vignette, on page 91 of A Spaniard in the Works.
The illustration has a resonance with the back cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1968 album Unfinished Music No 1 – Two Virgins.
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