See 16 years of John Lennon’s visual artwork at Chasen Gallery starting 5/7

by | Apr 30, 2015 | ART

“Art always came first in his life,” said Lynne Clifford, curator of John Lennon’s art collection which is headed to RVA’s Chasen Galleries next week.

“Art always came first in his life,” said Lynne Clifford, curator of John Lennon’s art collection which is headed to RVA’s Chasen Galleries next week. “From the time that he was a Beatle onwards, even when he was writing and composing music, he was always drawing.”

John Lennon. We all know him as one of the main front men for the Beatles alongside Paul McCartney. He also had a successful solo career after he broke up with the Beatles. Lennon is known as a role model for world peace, love, and as one of the best musicians of all time. But music wasn’t his only form of art.

Before Lennon even picked up a guitar, he was drawing. In 1957 at the age of 17, he went to Liverpool Art Institute, the same year he met McCartney. He went there for three years, and then in 1961 the Beatles were discovered at a venue in Liverpool.

As a songwriter, Lennon expressed his imagination and emotions in a most beautiful way with songs like ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘I am the Walrus’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ and ‘All You Need is Love’ to name a few.

Just as he could express himself through song, he could do so through visual arts as well. One of the reasons why he was so attracted to Ono was because she was a daring and very ‘out there’ artist. Ono was a Japanese Fluxus (an avant-garde Dada like movement) artist. A well-known exhibit of hers is ‘Cut Piece’ from 1964 where she is sitting on stage letting people cut off her clothing.

Anyways, Lennon was into drawing and art way before he met the Beatles or Yoko Ono.

“Like his style of writing music, his art changed too. When Lennon was drawing in the 60’s, his figures were very avant-garde, caricature in flavor and quite surreal,” said Clifford. “After he met Ono, his style changed again – he wrote in pen, ink and sumi ink and it was more sophisticated – His style went from surreal into these creative masterpieces that were situated between caricature and illustration.”

As most Beatles fans know, the band went through phases throughout the years of changing up their music style. In the early 60’s when they started out they were influenced by Elvis and other 50’s rock and roll artists. With each album it got more progressive, they got more folky then trippy, they just did it all. Then of course to Lennon’s solo career was all about peace and love.

Same goes for Lennon’s artwork. He wrote three best-selling books of illustrations and writings, two of which ‘In His Own Write’ (1964), ‘A Spaniard in the Works’ (1965) came out during the height of Beatle-mania.

After meeting Ono and growing a deep bond with her, he did a lot of drawings of her and also of them together.

“He never tired of drawing her or exhibiting his love for her,” said Clifford. “So many of the pieces in the exhibition are beautiful drawings of the two of them entwined together, two as one, his face, her face together there’s no beginning there’s no end.”

On Thursday May 7th, an exhibition of John Lennon’s artwork will open at Chasen Galleries in Carytown across from the Kroger. It will run through Sunday May 10th. The exhibition is free with a suggested donation of $5, proceeds going to FeedMore Central Virginia Food Bank.

The show will feature over 70 limited-edition pieces of Lennon’s artwork starting with some of his earliest sketches in 1964 all the way up to his death in 1980.

Chasen Galleries is a regional art gallery that represents artists, glass artists and sculptors from all over the world. The Lennon exhibit has been making its way around the country and luckily will be stopping here in Richmond.

“We’re excited about it I actually attended the first exhibit of the show in Houston a few weeks ago,” said Andrew Chasen, President of Chasen Galleries. “Almost all of the pieces are signed by Yoko Ono Lennon and most have John Lennon’s embossed signature as well as his chalk mark.”

The hours of the exhibition are:

Thursday, May 7th 6-8pm, VIP only

Friday, May 8th Noon – 6:00 pm

Saturday, May 9th Noon – 8:00 pm

Sunday, May 10th 11am-4pm

At Chasen Galleries, 3554 W Cary St, Richmond, VA 23221, right across from the Kroger in Carytown.

“It’s a fabulous opportunity for people to come and really get a glimpse into the mind and imagination of John Lennon,” said Clifford. “It’s an exhibition that really surrounds people with love and peace.”

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at

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