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John Lennon Drawings & Manuscript Sale Fetches $2.9 Million—Twice High Estimate

by Gregory Watkins (06/04/14).

“Untitled Illustration of a Four-Eyed Guitar Player,” a black ink drawing penned by John Lennon, realized $109,375—the highest price paid for a drawing in the John Lennon: ‘You Might Well Arsk’: Original Drawings and Manuscripts, 1964-65 auction held at Sotheby’s on June 4.

“Untitled Illustration of a Four-Eyed Guitar Player,” a black ink drawing penned by John Lennon, realized $109,375—the highest price paid for a drawing in the John Lennon: ‘You Might Well Arsk’: Original Drawings and Manuscripts, 1964-65 auction held at Sotheby’s on June 4.

The single-owner auction, John Lennon: ‘You Might Well Arsk’: Original Drawings And Manuscripts, 1964-65—featuring Lennon’s original artwork and autographed manuscripts for two books the musician wrote and illustrated at the height of Beatlemania in 1964 and 1965—realized a total of $2.89 million at Sotheby’s in New York, well over the high estimate of $1.2 million.

The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield,” the manuscript of Lennon’s bizarre and hilarious parody of Sherlock Holmes from his book “A Spaniard in the Works” (published in 1965), led the auction, held on Wednesday, June 4, gaveling for $209,000, tripling the high estimate of $70,000. A large portion of the bidding in the sale came through the Internet.

The manuscript was hand-written with occasional corrections in blue then black ink, as Lennon changed pens for four lines from the bottom of the fifth page.

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A line drawing, “Untitled Illustration of a Four-Eyed Guitar Player,” brought $109,375, more than four times the high estimate ($25,000), making it the highest-selling illustration lot.

Tom Maschler, Lennon’s former publisher, put the collection on the block.

“I really loved his drawings. As a result of that, he gave them to me; he gave me the whole lot,” Maschler said, “and I put them in a drawer. If we take them out, perhaps we can have the whole thing reevaluated. I thought that would be a ‘thank you’ to John for giving me all this stuff. This will revive the memory of John, and that’s what it’s doing.”

That “thank you” is now enriching the lives—and walls—of some dedicated Beatles fans, as well as enthusiasts of legitimate art.

“Untitled Illustration of a Boy with Six Birds,” which was used as the cover illustration for The Beatles 1995 single, “Free as a Bird,” brought $27,500.

“Untitled Illustration of a Boy with Six Birds,” which was used as the cover illustration for The Beatles 1995 single, “Free as a Bird,” brought $27,500.

“John Lennon was actually a trained artist; he attended the Liverpool College of Art. He knew what he was doing, as far as illustration art was concerned,” said Philip Errington, director of Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department. “The line progresses, the humor comes out. Some of these drawings illustrate the stories within the books. But others make political statements or may just be wry humor or they may just be something that Lennon enjoyed doing.”

“John Lennon has now been recognized as having an exceptional literary and artistic talent,” Errington added.

The first lot in the auction was a drawing known as “Untitled Illustration of a Boy with Six Birds,” a 9 3/10-inch by 7 4/5-inch black ink sketch with editorial notes added in blue ink, sold for $27,500. The image might be familiar to Beatles fans.

“In 1995, when The Beatles releases ‘Free as a Bird,’ the drawing was used this as the front-cover art for the single,” Errington said. “It really was putting the print of Lennon on this posthumous work.”

“Oh Dear Sheep” From “Bernice’s Sheep,” and ink and watercolor drawing was expected to draw bids between $20,000 and $30,000. It sold for $81,250.

“Oh Dear Sheep” From “Bernice’s Sheep,” and ink and watercolor drawing was expected to draw bids between $20,000 and $30,000. It sold for $81,250.

“Lennon’s nonsense verse, puns, wicked humor and comic drawings continue to resonate 50 years after the publication of ‘In His Own Write’ and ‘A Spaniard in the Works,’” said Gabriel Heaton, deputy director Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department.


Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.com You can e-mail him at greg.watkins@worthpoint.com.

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